Friday July 12, 2024
News Sections

Following the recent devastating pipeline explosion that took the life of one Kentuckian in Lincoln County, Attorney General Andy Beshear wants greater scrutiny of the planned Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) Bullitt County Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Project.

Beshear announced today that his Office of Rate Intervention filed a motion to intervene and expand the scope of a complaint case before the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) that Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest brought against LG&E over concerns surrounding its Bullitt County natural gas pipeline.

Intervening on behalf of Kentuckians, Beshear says the PSC should expand the matter to ensure the pipeline project meets safety, legal and regulatory compliance requirements, and address the tactics used and costs projected to secure and complete the pipeline.

“Given the recent tragedy in Lincoln County, I believe we must apply greater scrutiny to every pipeline project being proposed and constructed in our state,” Beshear said. “Kentuckians deserve to know that pipelines running across their property comply with the law and are as safe as possible.”

Beshear’s office noted recent decisions by the PSC concerning LG&E’s pipelines and safety practices, reminding the PSC of its “jurisdiction to regulate the safety of natural gas facilities in Kentucky.” The pipeline in Lincoln County was a large multi-state pipeline, and thus under federal jurisdiction. The Bullitt County pipeline, which will operate as part of LG&E’s transmission and distribution system, is entirely within the border of Kentucky and subject to PSC jurisdiction.

Beshear’s office is also concerned about complaints as to alleged tactics used to acquire the land for the pipeline. The complaint notes comments and statements made by the company that show “LG&E’s inappropriate use of its monopoly status to pressure” the remaining property owners to grant easements and right-of-ways, while threatening condemnation of their property.

Beshear’s office also notes that there is no evidence that the PSC has subsequently reviewed the numerous environmental permits LG&E is required to obtain for the project, and which the PSC required LG&E to file with it after receipt.

As the watchdog for consumers in matters relating to natural gas, water, sewer, electric and landline telephone rates, Beshear’s office further points out in its motions that the pipeline’s increasing cost warrants an expanded inquiry.

Beshear said the cost of the pipeline has increased nearly 50% in just two years and is currently estimated to cost $38.7 million.

The next steps in the case are determined by the PSC.

Under Kentucky law, Beshear’s office is responsible for representing the interests of Kentucky consumers before quasi-judicial and governmental ratemaking agencies. Over the past three and a half years, Beshear’s rate intervention team has helped Kentucky families avoid approximately $1.6 billion in proposed utility rate increases.

Over the past year alone, the office has taken on an unprecedented number of cases saving families in approximately 90 counties more than $113 million a year.

This spring, Beshear’s office also filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of low-income advocates having the ability to participate in utility rate cases. For nearly two decades, low-income advocates were granted participation in LG&E or KU rate cases before the PSC denied them earlier this year.

“If our families are being asked to pay more or are directly impacted by the actions of investor-owned utilities, I want to ensure their voices are heard,” Beshear said.

Beshear urges Kentuckians needing to file a utility complaint to do so by completing his office’s online form.

Drivers of electric vehicles in Louisville have yet another place to “fill up” their batteries with the installation of a new public charging station at Seneca Park through Louisville Gas and Electric Company’s EV Charging Station Program.

Seneca Park was chosen using data collected by Drive Clean Louisville, a Metro Government initiative that promotes the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles. A survey asked the public to identify places in Louisville in need of vehicle chargers, and Seneca Park was among the top spots named.

LG&E is locating this and other stations around the Louisville area through its EV Charging Station Program to meet the growing demand for accessible, convenient charging facilities as more motorists embrace electric vehicles.

Taking a data-driven approach to selecting the Seneca Park site aligns with one of Mayor Greg Fischer’s goals for the city.

“It just makes sense to ask the people who drive electric vehicles to tell us where they need these chargers to be,” said Mayor Fischer. “It’s a bottom-up, data-driven approach that gives the community a say in the conversation as we work to make Louisville more sustainable.”

Located on Rock Creek Drive near the restrooms and tennis courts, the Seneca Park charging station will be available to the public for an hourly fee during normal park hours. The station is equipped with convenient quick-pay options and safety features, including charging plugs that lock in place when not in use.

“It’s exciting to help answer the community’s call and assist Metro Louisville in bringing its survey results to life,” said Beth McFarland, vice president of Customer Services for LG&E and Kentucky Utilities Company. “Installing a public EV charging station at Seneca Park aligns well with the intent of our program, and its design encourages the use of public spaces like widely popular community parks.” Seve Ghose, director of Louisville Parks and Recreation, said he hopes this is the start of a long partnership with LG&E to provide electric-vehicle chargers throughout the community.

“Louisville Parks and Recreation fully supports environmentally conscious ventures such as this,” Ghose said. “And what better place than a park to situate them? Thank you, LG&E.”

Drive Clean Louisville is being spearheaded by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, which has long been a proponent of alternative-fuel transportation as a way help improve local air quality.

According to Michelle King, APCD Director of Program Planning, the Drive Clean Louisville team is a collaborative effort to find resources and develop policies that promote cleaner transportation options across the city.

“From gathering community input on electric vehicle charging infrastructure to sharing those learnings with partners like LG&E, our goal is to serve as a hub for ideas, information, and opportunities that will allow our city to continue fostering vibrant economic activity while at the same time supporting clean air for all,” King said. Through LG&E and KU’s EV Charging Station Program, which was approved in 2016 by the Kentucky Public Service Commission, the utilities host nine additional publicly-accessible charging stations. Customers also can host vehicle charging stations at their locations for public and private use through the program. The utilities continue to evaluate potential locations for additional public charging stations across their service territories.

 

For more on LG&E’s EV charger network, go here.

To find out more about Drive Clean Louisville, go here.

An agreement reached between Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) and Louisville Metro Government that significantly reduced a proposed utility rate increase was accepted with minor modifications Thursday by the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC).

Louisville Metro Government, along with a number of other intervenors in the case before the PSC, reached a settlement on April 19 that was more than $40 million below LG&E’s initial request for new revenue and included a drastic cut to LG&E’s proposed fixed monthly charges of $46 for residential customers who have both electric and gas service. The PSC upheld those provisions, and further reduced LG&E’s new revenues by approximately $4 million.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, in his authority as legal representative for Louisville Metro Government, has personally represented the city in the case, including settlement negotiations held in Frankfort in April.

“I take great pride that my office and I worked for more than six months to limit the impact this rate case would have on utility bills for Louisville Metro Government and for all residents in Jefferson County,” said County Attorney Mike O’Connell. “Without our efforts, customers would have experienced an additional $45 million in annual rate increases and seen a dramatic increase in LG&E’s fixed rate charges. In addition, we were able to help secure additional support for low-income customers.

“The Public Service Commission upheld nearly every provision of the agreement that Louisville Metro Government and the other interveners reached with LG&E. The PSC commissioners have stated this revised settlement represents rates that are fair, just and reasonable for customers. I hope that LG&E will honor the PSC’s decision.”

LG&E asked the PSC in November to grant an increase to its electric and gas rates that would boost the company’s annual revenues by $107.5 million. Louisville Metro Government intervened in the case on December 2 and presented facts and expert testimony that called for a substantial cut to LG&E’s request. The new rates are set to go into effect July 1.

Louisville Metro’s intervention paid especially high dividends in the debate over the fixed electric service charge. LG&E proposed to more than double the current service charge of $10.75 to $22 per meter. This increase raised concerns about impacts on low-income families, seniors and others living on fixed income, and from those in Louisville who had invested in energy conservation efforts, including solar technology. The high level of proposed increases in fixed charges was a significant factor in Louisville Metro’s decision to intervene.

The fixed monthly charge for electric service will now be $12.25, nearly $10 a month less than LG&E’s request.

Louisville Metro spends more than $17 million annually on utility bills. Following the settlement in April, Louisville Metro estimated $650,000 in cost avoidance for its utility bills compared to LG&E’s original rate increase request.

This case marked Louisville’s first significant intervention in a LG&E rate case heard before the PSC in more than 30 years. Of the Louisville Metro Council members present and voting on Dec. 15, they unanimously approved (20-0) a resolution in support of intervention. Councilmen Bill Hollander and Kevin Kramer both have offered written testimony in the case.

Other notable pieces of the settlement that the PSC upheld include an increase of $200,000 (up from $500,000) for low-income customer support through a contribution to the Association for Community Ministries; an electric bus infrastructure and rates study; and a LED lighting collaborative focused on reducing the costs that cities spend on street lights.

Full details on the revised agreement can be found on the PSC’s website at the following link:

http://psc.ky.gov/agencies/psc/press/062017/0622_r01.pdf

Rusty Weihe, a second-grade teacher at Farmer Elementary School, has been awarded the Excellence in Classroom and Educational Leadership (ExCEL) Award. Representatives from Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) and from the award sponsors — LG&E and KU and WHAS11 — honored the teacher during a ceremony at the school last week.

“Students in Mr. Weihe’s class are challenged with rigorous and engaging lessons from the minute they walk through the doors to the time they leave,” Farmer Principal Shannon Conlon said. “No instructional time during the day is lost due to his level of preparedness each and every day.”

Weihe is a strong advocate for his school, serving on numerous teams, including the Instructional Leadership Team, Professional Learning Community, Site-Based Decision Making Council and Response to Intervention team. He is also a member of the Parent-Teacher Association, and serves as the school leader for the Orton-Gillingham reading program as well as a University of Louisville mentor.

“Mr. Weihe makes it his mission to reach all students where they are academically,” said Nicholas Toole, assistant principal at Farmer. “He possesses the grit and perseverance to get the students to complete the year on grade level. He is a true leader among his colleagues and one that they turn to when they have questions about instruction or specific student concerns.”

His colleagues echo that sentiment.

“Rusty holds high expectations for all learners and establishes an environment where all children know they are valuable and capable,” said second-grade teacher Sarah Switzer. “He is committed to teaching each child as an individual.”

As part of LG&E and KU’s commitment to supporting education across the communities it serves, Weihe and other ExCEL Award winning teachers each receive a $1,000 instructional grant from the company.

Louisville Metro Government has agreed in principle to a settlement that would significantly reduce a proposed utility rate increase by Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E).

Wednesday’s settlement agreement is more than $40 million below LG&E’s initial request for new revenue and includes a drastic reduction in LG&E’s proposed fixed monthly charges of $46 for residential customers who have both electric and gas service. The settlement requires the approval of the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) and could be altered following the PSC’s hearing on the case that begins May 9.

“This settlement protects LG&E customers of all types but also supports the utility in providing safe and reliable service for its users,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “Louisville Metro’s efforts in this case benefit all cities within Jefferson County and the rest of the LG&E service area.”

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, in his authority as legal representative for Louisville Metro Government, has personally represented the city in the case, including settlement negotiations last week in Frankfort.

“Our work to limit the increase on fixed charges and to the rates cities pay for street lights is a big win for everyone in Jefferson County,” said O’Connell. “Listening to the input of our citizens, the Mayor and other city officials, along with members of Metro Council, guided me throughout this case. I hope that the PSC views this stipulation as fair, just and reasonable and ultimately approves it.”

LG&E asked the PSC in November to grant an increase to its electric and gas rates that would boost the company’s annual revenues by $107.5 million. Louisville Metro Government intervened in the case on December 2 and has since presented facts and expert testimony that called for a substantial cut to LG&E’s request. The settlement represents a 38 percent reduction from what LG&E requested in additional revenue.

Louisville Metro’s intervention paid especially high dividends in the debate over the fixed electric service charge. LG&E proposed to more than double the current service charge of $10.75 to $22 per meter. This increase raised concerns about impacts on low-income families, seniors and others living on fixed income, and from those in Louisville who had invested in energy conservation efforts, including solar technology. The high level of proposed increases in fixed charges was a significant factor in Louisville Metro’s decision to intervene.

The settlement raises the electric fixed charge only 75 cents each year in 2017 and 2018. The new fixed charges will be $11.50 and $12.25, respectively, a fraction of the company’s request.

When the fixed gas service charge is also taken into account, Wednesday’s agreement includes combined monthly charges of $27.85 for residential customers starting July 1, 2017. This combined $3.60 increase from current charges is drastically lower than LG&E’s request for an immediate $21.75 monthly boost in fixed costs outside of monthly electric and gas use.

Louisville Metro spends more than $17 million annually on utility bills. The city estimates $650,000 in cost avoidance compared to LG&E’s original request that would have resulted in more than a $1.23 million hike in Louisville Metro’s yearly utility bill.

This is the city’s first significant intervention in a LG&E rate case heard before the PSC in more than 30 years. Of the Louisville Metro Council members present and voting on Dec. 15, they unanimously approved (20-0) a resolution in support of intervention. Councilmen Bill Hollander and Kevin Kramer both have offered written testimony in the case.

Other notable pieces of the settlement include:

  • Low-income customer support: $700,000 to the Association for Community Ministries (ACM) for utility assistance and $180,000 for Home Energy Assistance, both to remain in effect through June 30, 2021. This is a $200,000 increase to the contribution to ACM.
  • Electric bus infrastructure and rates study: LG&E and Kentucky Utilities (KU) commit to fund a study concerning economical deployment of electric bus infrastructure in the Louisville and Lexington areas, as well as possible cost-based rate structures related to charging stations and other infrastructure needed for electric buses.
  • LED lighting collaborative: The Utilities commit to engage in good faith with Louisville Metro, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and any other interested parties to these proceedings in a collaborative to discuss issues related to LED lighting to determine what LED street lighting equipment and rate structures might be offered by the Utilities.

Parties to the settlement include LG&E, Louisville Metro, the office of Attorney General Andy Beshear and numerous other intervenors in the case, including large-scale commercial and industrial customers and nonprofits like the Metropolitan Housing Coalition and the Sierra Club.

“The outcome of the rate case for residential customers in Louisville Metro is much improved over what had been requested,” said Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, which represented the Metropolitan Housing Coalition. “Louisville Metro and County Attorney Mike O’Connell worked with the other intervenors and were instrumental in keeping customer charge increases small, and in helping to expand low-income energy assistance for the most vulnerable LG&E customers. We appreciate LG&E’s continued commitment to low-income assistance, which they pledged to increase and continue through 2021.”

This is a partial settlement as intervenors AT&T Kentucky and the Kentucky Cable Telecommunications are not parties to the agreement.

Attorney Gregory Dutton from the law firm of Goldberg Simpson has served as outside co-counsel for Louisville Metro on this case.

A full version of the stipulation can be found here.

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that his Office of Rate Intervention is recommending that the Public Service Commission (PSC) hold LG&E and KU to approximately one-third of the increase requested in recently filed rate cases.

The utility companies are asking the PSC for a $210 million increase in annual revenues.

Beshear’s rate proposal incorporates the testimony of five experts, including an engineer, and asks the PSC to reduce the rate request by $142 million.

Beshear’s Office of Rate Intervention serves as a watchdog for consumers in matters relating to health insurance, natural gas, water, sewer, electric and telephone rates. Under Kentucky law, the office is responsible for representing the interests of Kentucky consumers before governmental ratemaking agencies, concentrating on utility cases before PSC.

“My office clearly understands the need for utility companies to maintain their infrastructure to better serve ratepayers,” Beshear said. “In this instance, we view the requested increase by the utility companies to be excessive and are asking the PSC to take the appropriate action so that any cost passed to consumers isn’t crippling.”

Beshear’s office is also recommending that the fixed customer charge remain the same with no additional increase and eliminate the fixed charge “gas line tracker rider.” The charge as originally proposed was for a one-time, short-term recovery for a specific project. Now the companies want to use the tracker for long-term projects to enable them to collect construction expenses from ratepayers between rate cases.

Beshear is also recommending the PSC reject the proposed smart meter deployment, which will cost customers more than $350 million over the life of the meters.

“After careful review of the filings in this case, we find little support that smart meter deployment will benefit the ratepayers in any way,” Beshear said.

Other recommendations by Beshear’s office include:

  • Delaying a smart grid project.
  • Requesting the PSC reduce proposed transmission spending in an attempt to keep costs for customers down.
  • Recommending a much lower authorized return for shareholders than proposed by the company.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 2 at the PSC in Frankfort.

Louisville Metro Government will seek to intervene in the pending case before the Public Service Commission (PSC) involving Louisville Gas & Electric’s request for an increase in utility rates.

The city’s $17 million LG&E annual expense makes Louisville Metro one of the largest, if not the largest, single customers that LG&E serves. LG&E’s requested 8.5 percent rate increase would affect all local residents and could potentially reduce the number of local families served by Louisville Metro’s low-income heating assistance program. As the state’s largest urban area, Louisville Metro also provides and pays for the most extensive street light and traffic light infrastructure of any city in Kentucky.

“It’s important for Metro Government to be part of the discussion on a decision that will impact every household in our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “This will allow us the ability to advocate for the citizens of Louisville while better understanding the needs of LG&E.”

Fischer said this strategy aligns with other efforts to keep utility rate increase as low as possible, including at MSD and Louisville Water. The Mayor said he was especially concerned about the impact of rate increases on low-income families.

Mike O’Connell, in his capacity as Jefferson County Attorney, will directly represent Louisville Metro and the interests of its citizens on this matter. The county attorney will also engage an outside law firm and use other expert resources as necessary.

“Louisville Metro has a special interest in this case that cannot be represented by any other party,” O’Connell said. “It is important that the concerns of Louisville be heard. We will present issues and develop facts that will assist the Public Service Commission in fully considering this issue.”

Louisville Metro will formally file its motion to intervene with the PSC later this month. The PSC will then decide whether to grant Louisville Metro’s request, along with any other groups who have already sought or may seek intervenor status.

The decision to seek intervention drew praise from other city officials.

“It is important that Metro Government intercede to be a voice for the hundreds of thousands of people who will not be able to speak directly to the Public Service Commission,” Metro Council President David Yates said.  “For many households, the economy is slowly improving and we as representatives for every citizen of Louisville have a duty to ensure no undue burden is placed upon the shoulders of rate payers, of whom many are only just beginning to find room to breathe, financially. I fully support Metro Government’s decision to intervene.”

 “Many of us on Metro Council have concerns about LG&E’s rate request, particularly the troublesome increase in fixed charges, which have the potential to undermine energy efficiency and disproportionately impact low-income residents,’ Councilman Bill Hollander said.  “Louisville Metro should have a seat at the table as these issues are decided and we applaud the decision to intervene.”

“It is important for Louisville Metro to speak on behalf of our residents,” Councilman Kevin Kramer said.  “While it is appropriate for LG&E to seek ways to more efficiently offer and monitor its service, these efforts should actually result in lower long term costs for LG&E.  A temporary increase in expense should not lead to a long term increase in rates.”

Archives