Westar, others settle rate case; $3 a month increase for home customers

A settlement just reached in Westar Energy’s latest rate case will raise residential customer bills $3 a month, according to the state consumer counsel’s office.

Westar, the Kansas Corporation Commission staff, the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board and several other parties reached accord on a rate hike that will give Westar an addition $30.7 million a year, said David Springe, consumer counsel for CURB, the state agency that represents small business.

The settlement agreement drops a proposal by Westar to shift about $50 million of cost from its large industrial and commercial customers to residential and small-business ratepayers.

Westar applied for the rate increase primarily to pay for required environmental upgrades at the La Cygne power plant in eastern Kansas.

If the commission approves the settlement, residential customers will get the biggest increase, $18 million. Small business will be No. 2 at $12.7 million, roughly a 3.5 percent increase overall.

In addition to the increases for small customers, medium business rates will go up $3.9 million; large industrial customers will pay $3.2 million; cities and other street lighting customers, $2.1 million and school districts, $500,000.

Only one company in the state will see a significant decrease. The Occidental Chemical plant in south Wichita will have its rates reduced by $9.7 million. Occidental is Westar’s largest customer and has a special contract with the company approved by the commission.

While the residential and small-business customers will pay the bulk of Westar’s rate increase, Springe said he signed off on it because other proposals could have been worse.

“We accepted $9.4 million more than what we thought we should pay, but eliminated the litigation risk of getting $50 million (increase),” Springe said.

For home customers, the increase will be in the form of a $3 increase in the set monthly service charge, from $9 to $12, Springe said.

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