A complaint to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by a Eureka Springs resident, Martha Peine, has produced a $4.2 million refund by SWEPCO to electric customers.
Peine, a non-practicing lawyer, argued, and the settlement ratifies, that SWEPCO was charging customers improperly in recovering transmission expenses for such costs as lobbying, advertising, charitable contributions and expenditures on entertainment of elected officials. A FERC staff review found even more improper charges in the rate structure of SWEPCO’s parent AEP than the some $2 million Peine had contested. The agreement will prohibit many of these charges in the future. The refunds go to customers in a nine-state region including Arkansas in the form of a one-time credit on electric bills.
From a news release:
“While the end result in my case is a win for ratepayers, I will always wonder what mistakes there may be in the years to come,” said Ms. Peine. “The review process is complicated and time consuming. There is no person, entity, or agency that meaningfully reviews the rate updates on a regular basis, so there is always the potential for significant overcharges.”
”On behalf of Save the Ozarks, we congratulate Martha for her accomplishment,” said Pat Costner, STO Director. “Every SWEPCO electric customer owes a debt of gratitude to this remarkable woman, who has shown us that one person can make a big difference.”
Among the charges Peine had noted and contested were a $3,230 private air flight for SWEPCO President Venita McCellon-Allen to attend a luncheon honoring then-Arkansas PSC Chair Collette Honorable, now a member of FERCE. Customers also paid for a lunch with Larry Smith, mayor of Cave Springs, while presenting a check to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership for a sanctuary. The mayor later testified before the PSC in support of a high-voltage transmission line.