- Associated Press - Friday, June 29, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A bipartisan coalition of Kansas lawmakers is requesting an independent audit of an electric utility’s operations before the company is allowed to raise its rates.

The lawmakers asked the Kansas Corporation Commission for a review of Westar Energy at a public hearing on Thursday, The Wichita Eagle reported. The commission is considering the utility’s proposal for a $17 million annual rate increase, which would be a nearly $3 monthly increase for customers.

“Failure to address our citizens’ and businesses’ concerns about skyrocketing electricity prices will only slow economic growth and development,” said Republican Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita. “I implore you to consider the strains our current rates are having on ratepayers and deny this rate request. We can do better for Kansans and we should.”

Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said the company’s costs are expected to stabilize with the increase as it moves out of a period of building new facilities and into more of a holding pattern of maintenance and operation.

Republican Rep. Kristey Williams of Augusta said Westar has made $2.6 billion in profit since 2008. The lawmakers argue that Westar’s rates are higher than in neighboring states and the national average.

Penzig said there have been discussions about an outside rate review, but she’s cautioned the state to go slow.

“One concern is any time you take on a study like that, they tend to be quite expensive,” she said. “Who would bear the cost of that study?”

Penzig also noted that Westar provides documents to the commission to justify its costs when requesting rate increases.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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