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Settlement Pending in AE Rate Case

Details Few -- City Council posted for Friday consideration
Mike Kanin, 5:30pm, Tue. Feb. 26, 2013

City Hall buzz (first reported in online newsletter In Fact Daily) is that a settlement is in the works over the Austin Energy rate case. City Council is posted for a special-called settlement meeting on Friday. If it happens, a deal could spare the utility heaps of trouble – at least from the state’s Public Utility Commission.

An ad hoc group of out-of-city ratepayers – Homeowners United for Rate Fairness (HURF) – declared early on that they would challenge any significant Austin Energy rate increase. When Council members approved the utility’s first rate increase in nearly two decades last summer, HURF filed a petition that kicked off the case with the PUC.

By mid-February there were nearly 400 documents associated with the battle cited on the PUC’s web site. Some of these contained detailed criticisms from HURF, PUC staff, and a state-level consumer agency called the Office of Public Utility Counsel. Those groups attacked AE’s ratemaking and questioned its stated revenue requirements.

AE fired back last week in responses that were deeply critical of the state’s analysis. Although a settlement is reportedly pending, the case remains officially scheduled to be heard – beginning with preliminaries this Friday followed by a week of hearings – before Administrative Law Judges. The final outcome would be announced later this summer.

No details are yet available about the agreement, but it’s likely that at least some out-of-city ratepayers will be granted reduced rates. Nothing agreed to – indeed, nothing later determined by the PUC – would hold for in-city ratepayers, since the PUC’s jurisdiction only covers the 50,000 out-of-town ratepayers among AE’s 400,000 customers.

For more, follow the NewsDesk blog and upcoming print editions of the Chronicle.

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