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City rejects El Paso Electric rate hike; City Rep. Niland rips into utility

The El Paso City Council officially denied El Paso Electric’s proposed rate hike, calling it unreasonable and one City Representative also called the utility “greedy.”

“Despite all the success you’ve had, you have the gall to ask this community for an additional revenue collection of $71.5 million each year? Why? So you can double your earnings? it’s nothing but pure greed,” City Rep. Cortney Niland said in open session at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, directing her comments to El Paso Electric.

Utility officials have said the company needs the increase to pay for big capital investments such as power plants and other equipment. The proposed 11% increase would translate to about an additional $8.00 a month for average customers who pay about $71.00 a month.

Rooftop solar customers with an average monthly bill of $45.00 would see an increase of $12.00.

The Council unanimously approved a motion denying the utility’s hike, closing the door on any possibility of resolving the issue locally.

El Paso Electric Vice President Eddie Gutierrez said the case would have still gone to the Public Utility Commission for resolution even if the Council hadn’t rejected the proposal because there are other interveners in the case.

“We are a regulated market and so therefore we have an obligation to serve and we have a very strainious process to go through,” said Gutierrez.

Utility officials were present at Tuesday’s council meeting but did not address Niland or the rest of council in open session, a completely different picture than the contentious tit for tat in 2011 when Niland took on the utility for a rate reduction.

“What’s important is that we have respect, not just for the process but also the humility by which we deliver our message and I think we’ve been communicating with the community almost a year or two in advance,” said Gutierrez in an interview after the meeting.

The case is likely to take several months to resolve before the Public Utility Commission.

“You question our intelligence by launching a media campaign talking about solar acting like the sun doesn’t shine every day. We’re not stupid,” Niland said to utility officials.

“We have a connection to our community and we want to make sure everyone is informed,” Gutierrez told ABC-7.

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