AARP pushes for reduced electric rates for low income Vermonters
05/20/09 5:44PM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) A national consumer organization wants the state to reduce electric rates for low income consumers.
AARP Vermont has filed a petition with the Public Service Board to cut rates by 25% for people whose income is at or below $16,000 a year.
VPR's John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Last year the Legislature authorized state utility regulators to set electric rates that would be affordable for lower-income consumers.
AARP Vermont has followed through on that bill with a petition this week to the state Public Service Board.
Philene Taormina is advocacy director for the group's Vermont chapter.
(Taormina) "So these are people who are really struggling with energy costs and electric is a component and we are the only northern state that doesn't have a utility-based program to help people, low-income, customers afford their bills."
(Host) Taormina said that other customers would subsidize the 25% reduction in rates to help low-income people. But she said that's a policy call the state needs to make.
(Taormina) "It would be a very small amount. But yes, all ratepayers would pay for it. But what I think you have to remember is that all ratepayers pay for everything already. So the cost of disconnecting, reconnecting people who can't afford their electric bills or even if they have unpaid debt, we all pay for that."
(Dillon) Steve Costello is a spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service, the state's largest electric utility. He said the company is not opposed to the idea of a low-income rate.
(Costello) "I think in concept we can support this idea because we think it is very important for Vermont utilities to remain affordable and that goes from power costs to cost of service to programs like this."
(Dillon) But Costello said the utility does not want to be put in the position of determining who is eligible for the program. That job, he says, should fall to the state or a non profit agency working for the state.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.