EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso City Council unanimously approved a suspension of a rate hike proposed by El Paso Electric during Tuesday’s meeting.
The council’s vote suspends the rate increase for 90 days or until October 4, 2021, according to a city presentation. Now, city manager Tommy Gonzalez’s office will formally notify the utility of the council’s decision.
Had the council not taken the vote, ratepayers would have seen an increase in their bills on July 6.
“The suspension allows the city time to review the proposed rate change and prepare for a public hearing to determine if the proposed increase is fair, just and reasonable; while allowing the utility to be financially healthy and invest appropriately in its infrastructure to ensure safe and reliable service,” a city news release said.
City Strategic Partnerships Officer Elizabeth Triggs shared that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has appellate authority, “That means if there’s a disagreement about the rates city council sets for city residents, that decision can be appealed to the PUC of Texas and then they have the ultimate authroity to decide what the appropriate rates are.”
The city of El Paso intervened in El Paso Electric’s rate case on June 11 after the utility filed its proposal at the beginning of the month. The proposal would raise bills on average by $12.
“Historically the city has been a strong advocate for its residents and that advocacy has yielded positive results for EPE’s Texas service area customers,” Karla Nieman, the city attorney said. “In five rate cases filed by EPE since January 1994, through the city’s leadership in settlement discussions, Texas customers have attained nearly $155 million in savings, or an average $31 million per rate case.”
“Even if the PUC hasn’t made a strong decision yet as to what those rates look like, they still go into effect November 3. The ultilty commission has until December to make a decision on the rates. Again, this will be a discussion between the city, El Paso Electric and a number of other intervenors representing other intersted customers so you could see that schedule change.”
City staff anticipates the following schedule:
- July: Following review of the case, staff will return to City Council to provide a detailed overview of the rate case. The City will discuss key areas of concern and a strategy moving forward.
- October 2021: The City Council will set rates for customers within the City limits.
- November 2021: New rates will be effective.
- December 2021: The current PUC deadline to act on the rate request.
“Even if the PUC hasn’t made a strong decision yet as to what those rates look like, they still go into effect November 3,” Triggs explained, “The utility commission has until December to make a decision on the rates. Again, this will be a discussion between the city, El Paso Electric and a number of other intervenors representing other interested customers so you could see that schedule change.”
KTSM 9 News has reached out to El Paso Electric for comment.
This story will be updated.