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Variable-rates to blame for high electric bills

Spiking electri bills to be reviewed by Pa regulators

By Jackalyn Kovac and The Associated Press

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Hundreds of people across the state opened up their electric bill to find themselves owing hundreds more than before.

"I'm really frustrated. This is crazy. I don't know how people can survive making $500 payments to the electric company every month," said Brandon Hill.

Hill owed more than $700. Normally, he wouldn't have the funds to cover that cost, fortunately his received his income tax refund early.

"It's just rough with [my girlfriend] being on maternity leave for six weeks, and mine being the only income. Having a bill that's almost $1000, thats insane," said Hill.

Pennsylvania utility regulators said they will look into complaints about spiking electric bills, saying the affected people had signed variable-rate contracts with suppliers that then passed on wholesale prices driven up by cold weather.

"Basically I was blown away, to have that type of increase it's almost triple what I normally was used to paying," said Eric Pile. "For it to go from $.09 to $.20, it's ridiculous."

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to review the policies and rules around what regulators call electric generation suppliers that buy and sell electricity.

The utility commission doesn't regulate their rates, but it does regulate their conduct and marketing practices.

It says it's received more than 750 informal complaints from consumers about high bills.

The complaints arrive as policymakers in Harrisburg consider legislation that would bring more business to the suppliers by auctioning off the accounts of millions of Pennsylvania households that are still served by traditional utilities. The AARP opposes the bill.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times