Swanson moves to limit interim utility rate hikes

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson wants greater restrictions on rate hikes by electric and natural gas utilities, but Xcel Energy says there's no need for legislation Swanson plans to introduce.

Current law allows utilities to put an interim rate increase in place immediately. If the rate regulators eventually approve is less than the interim rate, utilities issue refunds. In 2008, refunds totaled nearly $70 million.

Swanson said utilities should have to justify rate increases before passing them on to consumers. But Xcel spokesman Scott Wilensky said the current model works well.

"We think Minnesota's current regulatory framework strikes an appropriate balance between consumer protection and the ability to allow utilities to make investments that benefit our customers," Wilensky said.

Swanson also wants a law to make utilities' travel, entertainment and lobbying costs clear.

"Ordinary people are struggling to pay their bills. They shouldn't have to front the tab for corporate lobbyists, executive perks," she said. "It's an issue of basic fairness for citizens who are squeezed in the worst economy since the Great depression."

Wilensky said Xcel is already committed doing to providing that information with future rate increases.

Minnesota Public Radio
Article Publish Date: 
January 13, 2010