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PSC tackles tariff disputes, extensions in weekly agenda meeting

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) heard a number of agenda items relating to Empire District Electric Fuel Company during Thursday’s meeting.

Empire’s first item was a joint response alongside the Staff of the PSC and the Office of the Public Counsel (OPC) after the commission asked each party to file responses to an issue. The question was whether the OPC’s opposition to a revised version of a tariff should impact the PSC’s consideration of Empire’s true-up filing. In their joint decision, the three parties agreed the rejection of the tariff should have little to no impact on the commission’s considerations.

Two other issues regarding Empire’s tariffs were considered by the PSC Thursday. The first was over an order regarding tariff changes to its fuel adjustment rates. The PSC responded to Empire’s filing for authority to make rate adjustments, and the OPC, in turn, responded to Staff’s statements. The issue is over the now-closed Asbury generating facility, which generated energy from coal. The question of whether coal inventory should be included in a report on the rate sheets was contested between Staff and OPC in their reports, and the OPC recommended setting a prehearing date as well as a procedural schedule moving forward with the discussion.   

The commission also agreed to Empire suspending five tariffs on utilities for 90 days after the intended effective dates. The tariffs, applying to energy and gas as well as water under Empire’s subsidiary Liberty Water, are to be suspended from the proposed May 23 effective date until August 21 in deference to customers dealing with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission also granted a stay of additional fees for customers paying their bills via credit and debit cards during the pandemic.

Also on the agenda was a complaint against Missouri-American Water Company. The PSC had investigated the claims and filed a report, setting a hearing for the issue that the plaintiff did not appear for or request an extension. Staff dismissed the complaint. 

The PSC also amended a previously agreed-to stipulation with Ameren over energy customers during COVID-19. The new ruling includes provisions on a donation from Ameren to benefit low-income customers.

The PSC ended the meeting by discussing the first half of a post-hearing memorandum on Empire. The Commission had held numerous local hearings over the company’s authority to raise tariffs for electric services. The company and PSC had differences over the commission’s recommendations and are working to reconcile their ideas into an agreement. Commissioners went back and forth from item to item on which version they agreed with on issues including settlements and rate percentages before running out of time for the meeting and agreeing to resume where they left off next week.

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for May 28.