Utility interim rates hearing spills over to Monday


In a showdown between the attorney general’s office and public utility companies, proposed changes to the way utilities obtain interim rate increases while awaiting lengthy Public Utilities Commission proceedings were debated in a House committee.

Under HF2798, sponsored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center), the commission could, but would no longer be required to, order interim rate increases. Currently, the PUC sets an interim rate to be charged between when a company requests an increase and the final rate is set. Utility companies argue that they front billions of dollars for regulated and mandated infrastructure and need interim increases to stay afloat.

In addition, the bill would require a rate increase applicant to submit certain travel, entertainment and employee expenses as part of the application process. Some public utilities have come under public scrutiny for private jet travel.

No action was taken, but Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), chairman of the House Energy Finance and Policy Division, said further testimony is expected Feb. 22.

A companion, SF2519, sponsored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.