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OCC takes AEP back to court over rates

IRONTON — The Ohio Consumer’s Counsel has filed a new appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court attempting to stop American Electric Power from collecting on fees generated from a rate plan increase the advocate group calls “unlawful.”

The filing follows an Oct. 29 dismissal of OCC’s first appeal by the Ohio Supreme Court that sought to overturn AEP’s three-year rate increase approved in March by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

One of the points of contention in the original filing was that a portion of the increase would be imposed retroactively because the PUCO was several months late in reaching its decision on the increase.

In September, the OCC filed its original appeal and a motion to the Court to stay the $63 million retroactive portion of the rate increase that was approved by the PUCO in March. That decision implemented new rates for AEP, with the rates charged to customers beginning April 1, 2009.

The states highest court voted 6-1 to dismiss the case without an opinion. Subsequently on Nov. 4, the PUCO dismissed a pair of applications filed by the OCC and other parties for reconsideration.

“Important and costly elements in AEP’s rate plan should be overturned and we have renewed our request for the Court to review our arguments,” Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said. “Since the PUCO has issued its latest decision, we have taken further action to protect residential customers from rate increases we believe are unlawful.”

Rate increases like that one have helped AEP post an increase in profit for the quarter that ended in September, despite a decrease in sales. The Columbus-based utility has more than five million customers in 11 states, including large portions of Lawrence and Scioto counties.

AEP customers in southern Ohio will have a maximum rate increase of 7 percent this year and 6 percent in 2010 and 2011.