"The Sound of Silence in Charleston Is Deafening"
West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue today said he believes state government should take immediate action to stop rate hikes requested by Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power. Perdue's comments came at an AARP candidate forum this evening in Huntington.
"These rate increases add insult to injury and must not be allowed," Perdue said. "It seems that legislative leaders and our Senate President, acting as governor, are just content to sit quietly and hope the problem goes away. The sound of silence in Charleston is deafening."
Perdue said he will take action as governor to "freeze and rollback" utility rates hikes but urged state officials to take action now.
"As governor, I will take on the big utility companies on behalf of the people of West Virginia," Perdue said. "But, for now, it appears all any of us can do is hope that the current leadership of our state rouses itself from its deep sleep of inaction. They are all so busy running for governor, they are ignoring the struggles of the people they serve."
Perdue said, "It is my intention to put pressure on the Public Service Commission and the utility companies to freeze rates for at least one year and to rollback recent rate increases that have been a shock to West Virginia families."
Perdue said, "I realize we don't have an elected governor right now. But the acting governor and other statewide elected officials have the loudest bullhorns in the state and they aren't using them."
According to press reports, more Appalachian Power Company customers are falling behind on their bills. The newspaper said the average delinquent bill balance has increased from $100 to more than $300.
Last week, Perdue became the first, and so far only, candidate for governor to raise the issue of utility rates. Perdue is raising the issue in a series of town hall meetings he is holding around the state. Perdue posted a web video on YouTube from one of those open meetings.
Perdue said the governor and legislature should consider a wide array of tough measures directed at the utility companies including, tougher regulations on rate increases, a thorough audit of the utilities to see how ratepayers' money is being used, and emergency help for seniors and others who are hit hard by high electric bills.
Perdue's opposition to the rate hikes came on the heels of a statement from AARP West Virginia expressing concern about the increases.
"Today, I stand with the AARP and pledge to work with them to stop these massive rate increases," Perdue said. "Perhaps these utility companies haven't noticed we are in the midst of a prolonged economic downturn. With so many people out of work and many others underemployed, these rate hikes are a huge and unexpected burden on West Virginia families."
Perdue said a recent personal experience brought the issue into sharp focus for him.
"My 87-year-old mother called me in distress because of her high electric bill," Perdue said. "I am sure many other families are struggling to pay high utility bills. What is almost beyond belief is that the rate hikes requested yesterday are in addition to a rate hike that is awaiting final approval from the Public Service Commission."
Perdue said his campaign has created a place on his website where people can leave their ideas for improving West Virginia.
"This is also a place where people can tell me their stories about how these rate hikes have affected their families," Perdue said. The site also allows people to post links to YouTube videos if they prefer to tell their story with video. This part of the website can be found at http://www.johnperdue.com/ideas.