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HUNTINGTON -- Representatives with Appalachian Power received a stern scolding from Cabell County Commissioners on Thursday after requesting support for two rate increases.

Commissioners Bob Bailey and Scott Bias laid into the representatives for proposing rate increases on people who are already unable to pay their utility bills. Bailey read off a list of names and the salaries of AEP employees who make more than $1 million.

How can AEP ask for higher rates, Bailey asked during the commission meeting, when the president of AEP flies around in a private plane? The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is considering the July 2010 rate increase and will also consider the March 2011 rate increase.

"What the public service commission and utility companies don't realize, as far as I'm concerned, is you've got people out here who are struggling to make a living," Bailey said. "I think you've got to live within your own means, and utility companies don't do that."

Bailey added, "They give huge bonuses, then lay off the working people."

The two proposed rate changes would increase the cost of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, the average for many households, from $80.46 to $94.19 -- a total increase of 17 percent.

Bias expressed his concerns with power grids being operated by northern states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. Bias said he was concerned that the northern states have the ability to decide which states received power during peak times.

He was also concerned that AEP in West Virginia did not require regular maintenance and upkeep like in Ohio. As commissioners hurled complaints and disagreed with the rate increases, AEP representatives Steve Stewart and Jim Fawcett tried to explain why the increases are necessary.

The representatives said the rate increases were to make up for the increased cost of coal and to purchase new equipment that was mandated by the federal government. At the behest of Commissioner Nancy Cartmill, the commission took the rate increase under advisement and would decide later whether or not to support it.

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