By Vickie Fleming
The public filled the rooms at Anderson’s Civic Center during the Duke Energy Rate Hearing Thursday night. Speaking during the public hearing were customers including residents and business owners, elected officials Senator Kevin Bryant, Rep. Don Bowen, Rep. Ann Thayer, Duke Energy Employees and spokes persons who receive assistance from Duke Energy. Speakers were sworn in before giving testimony at the hearing.
Shortly after the proceedings began, Rep. Bowen testified presenting information on Duke Energy’s employees pay and current financial status of Duke Energy. One of Rep. Bowen’s most compelling statements was that the CEO of Duke Energy made $8.8 million last year. Rep. Bowen made it clear that he opposed the South Carolina Public Service Commission approving Duke Energy’s request for a rate increase.
There were approximately 175 people present and about one-half of them testified in front of the seven commissioners during the public hearing which lasted more than 3 hours. Of the residents and business owners who testified, there were only a few who did not oppose the rate increase. Those who testified about Duke’s economic development in the area and how they were good community partners stayed neutral as to the rate increase.
By far, the majority of the people present at the hearing who testified were opposed to a rate increase. Several people brought up the fact that we are in a recession and this is not the time to be raising rates. Numerous persons testified that they now are making decisions between keeping electricity in their homes and buying groceries. One lady in particular, who said she is bi-polar, testified she is living on her own for the first time in her life. She went on to say “I will not, will not, turn on my heater until I know I can pay my bill and still be able to buy my needed medication and live on my own.”
A Williamston resident testified of the Unemployment Rate in Anderson County being 9.9 and the National Unemployment Rate Average is 9.1. That Anderson County is 0.8% higher than the national average and this community could not take an increase at this time. She also testified that Salvation Army currently does not have funds for families in dire need of their electrical bill to be paid or to be turned off.
One person ended their testimony by saying “I emplore you, no, I pray that you the Commissioners protect the people by denying Duke Energy a rate increase, I can’t afford my bill now” and then she went on to say “I could understand giving them a rate increase if Duke Energy were in the red or not making any profit, but they have made $1.4 billion profit already this year and if the stockholders are wanting more profits have Duke Energy look in their house for ways to cut their cost. Please do not have the customers pay for the stockholders to make more profit because I can’t afford my bill now.”
For persons who wish to be heard or seen by South Carolina Public Service Commission before they make their decision in February, there is one more proceeding on December 7, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. that will be held at the Public Service Commission of South Carolina which is located at 101 Executive Center Dr., Suite 100, Columbia, SC 29210.