By PHILLIP RAWLS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) â¿¿ Commissioner Terry Dunn's fellow Republicans on the Alabama Public Service Commission blocked his effort Thursday to have a formal review to determine if consumers are paying too much for services by Alabama Power, Alabama Gas and Mobile Gas.
At Thursday's meeting, Dunn proposed a formal review of the rate structures for Alabama's three largest investor-owned utilities. Neither Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh nor Commissioner Jeremy Oden would second his proposal to bring it to a vote. They said informal informational meetings are the best way to look at the rates for Alabama Power, Alabama Gas and Mobile Gas.
The PSC's decision drew praise from a leader for coal miners in the South.
"Commissioner Terry Dun's efforts to call for formal hearings on utility ratemaking is nothing more than a ploy of radical environmental groups to create a stage where they can argue for the end of coal as a fuel and to fight for the end of coal mining in Alabama and across America," said Daryl Dewberry, the southeastern vice president for the United Mineworkers of America.
Dunn said the rate structures have been in place for many years without a formal review, and it's time to see if they are still fair, particularly in light of a recent report from an independent research group, Regulatory Research Associates, that they are above the national average.
"I have always been committed to the necessity of balancing our nation's ongoing efforts to reduce pollution against the cost of accomplishing that goal. But first, let's review these utilities' rates," he said.
The three utilities' rates have been steady lately due, in part, to lower natural gas prices. Officials of Alabama Gas and Alabama Power said during the meeting that they will work with the commission to try to come up with a plan to keep rates steady through 2014.