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Cincinnati Streetcar and Duke

richardinman | 12 February, 2013 12:17

Streetcar-wreck

The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy are trying to play a fast one on Duke customers.

Background:

Most folks are aware of the Cincinnati Streetcar project and the associated budget battles that have gone on for quite some time now.  Put simply, Cincinnati is set on building the streetcar regardless of the availability of funds and how many budget games they have to play.  Evidently, the city was expecting Duke Energy to play good corporate benefactor and donate all their work to move utilities along the project’s route.  Duke didn’t believe they should foot the bill, but wanted to help best possible.  They came up with a set of “Riders” to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) request for rate increase

These “Riders”, once approved, would give Duke special options when dealing with a government entity (excluding state and federal). When an entity requests Duke to construct, modify, relocate and/or remove Duke’s facilities, wiring or other Duke owned equipment such entity would have the choice to either 1.) directly pay Duke  all costs related to such relocation regardless of the reason for the request and/or requirement or 2.) allow Duke to recover all cost related to such relocation regardless of the reason for the request and/or requirement from all Duke Customers residing or located within the geographical boundary of such entity through a monthly charge or 3.) some combination of 1 & 2.

There is also a rider that essentially distributes the cost of unpaid Duke bills to all other customers.  Thereby protecting Duke but passing the costs on to all Ohio Duke customers.

It is true that many outlying communities would not be directly affected by the Rider FRT part of the tariff filing. 

However, consider Duke’s extended payment plan options and how much of that can be passed on to the other Duke customers. 

When affected (City of Cincinnati) customers don’t pay their bill (which now includes this increase), that cost gets distributed to the remaining customers.

Further consider the precedence this sets.  Should all government entities expect all utilities to absorb costs incurred for relocation due to the entity’s projects?

Also, consider the following from the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel:

1. Facilities Relocation – Mass Transportation Rider (Rider FRT)

 

OBJECTION 27: OCC (Ohio Consumers’ Counsel) agrees with the Staff’s recommendation that Duke’s proposed Rider FRT should not be authorized for Duke to collect dollar amounts from customers. However, OCC objects that the Staff did not include (but should have included) in its rationale for not supporting Rider FRT the following public policy implications:

 

1)      Rider FRT unfairly discriminates among customer classes by giving members of one class – governmental entities – preferential treatment in paying the costs associated with their requests for relocation of facilities;

2)      utility company riders should not be used as a means for governmental entities to fund public works projects, as governmental bodies have other means for paying the costs of relocating facilities; and

3)      to the extent that the citizens of the governmental entity would not pay their electric bill, the Rider FRT portion of that bill would be collected from all other Duke customers through the uncollectible rider.

 

Talking points summary:

1.) Why should costs for utilities construction work associated with an infrastructure project be  buried in a utility rate increase? Transparency would suggest the project burden the costs.

2.)  Why should these costs be passed on to other Duke customers outside of the geographic boundaries of the governmental entity involved?

3.)  Sets a dangerous precedence of a private company charging rate payers for costs incurred on a public project, thus reducing the “published” costs of the project.

4.) Lastly, if costs will be increased based on projects in other geographic areas, rate payers are being “taxed” without representation.  At a minimum, related costs of unpaid bills should be redistributed within the geography of the governmental entity – not to all Duke rate payers within Ohio.

Call to action:

Submit online public comments here.

Attend a public hearing near you:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

Fairfield Township Administrative Building

6032 Morris Road 

Hamilton, 45011

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. 

Union Township Civic Center Hall 

4350 Aicholtz Road

Cincinnati, 45245

 

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

City Building, City Council Chambers

 1 Donham Plaza 

Middletown, 45042

 

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.

Cincinnati City Hall, Council Chambers

801 Plum Street 

Cincinnati, 45202

 
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