Home Energy and Environment Despite Rate Hike, Appalachian Power Still Has Friend in Robert Hurt

Despite Rate Hike, Appalachian Power Still Has Friend in Robert Hurt

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Last month, I asked “Is there anything State Sen. Robert Hurt (R-Chatham) won’t do for his donors at [American Electric Power subsidiary] Appalachian Power?” Today, we’re learning more about what’s in it for Hurt as he tries to win the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Tom Perriello (D-5th).

Hurt’s shilling came into the spotlight as he made outlandish excuses to defend Appalachian Power’s massive rate hike in December. When 5th district voters expressed outrage at the huge price spike in the middle of a recession, Hurt claimed Appalachian Power had no choice but to raise rates because of carbon pollution regulations. Just one problem — those regulations don’t actually exist yet. (Will Hurt next blame AEP’s recent minor stock slip on financial reform that has not yet passed?) Hurt has also vigorously rejected mainstream climate science, sounding an awful lot like Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli.

Hurt’s first quarter fundraising report shows his efforts  paid off handsomely, with AEP delivering a $1,000 donation. That’s on top of the $3,250 Appalachian Power has contributed to Hurt’s campaigns since 2001, just a fraction of the $64,717 Hurt has received from energy companies over that period, including $20,750 from electric utilities.

And if Hurt plays his cards right, there’s a lot more where that came from! Don’t believe me? Just ask Virgil Goode!

AEP gave then-Rep. Goode $10,000 in 2008 alone & $25,850 over his Congressional career, making AEP one of his top donors ever (just ahead of Altria/Philip Morris & RJ Reynolds Tobacco).

It’s all part of a massive expansion of AEP’s political contributions. As recently as the 1998 cycle, AEP’s political action committee spent “only” $139,950. But AEP has already spent $875,048 this time around — and the 2010 cycle’s only half over.

Why is AEP suddenly so interested in politics? It may have something to do with those pesky Democrats (like Rep. Perriello) trying to hold polluters accountable for their pollution. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst named AEP to the Toxic 100 list, identifying AEP as the 35th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, releasing roughly 88 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air every single year.

So the bottom line is, I guess not every customer in Virginia’s 5th district is so upset about all that extra money flowing into AEP’s coffers & all that pollution going into our air, huh? For Robert Hurt, it just paid off.

  • I just have to say, it would be one thing for my Congressman to sort of hedge and say that there was nothing he could do about a massive rate hike on one of my energy bills.  I wouldn’t like it, but I’d probably just shrug it off.  But if he came out and DEFENDED IT, for ANY reason, that would make me mad.  Democrat OR Republican.

  • TomPaine

    for cheap! The question whether once bought means staying bought?

  • tx2vadem

    Let’s take a step back, the VA SCC, if you don’t know, is tough.  They comb through companys’ filings.  So, before you think you get a bad deal out of a rate filing, you should look at the work they do.  All of the rate filing process is public.  You can view all of the cases online.

    As far as APCo, they have the next to lowest rates in the entire state.  Only Old Dominion is lower.  So, while this might seem like a lot to local consumers; in the wider world, it is not.  I understand folks don’t like higher utility bills.  But there are certainly things you can do to mitigate that.  And after all, Miles, you want people to consume less, right?

    The reason this rate case comes when it does is because for so long rates have been frozen.  That was a part of the deal when Virginia decided to deregulate its electric market.  We then reversed that decision and went back to the regulated model (a lighter version).  After a waiting period, utilities were allowed to file rate cases to increase base rates.  Utilities, however, could not control that this time period would coincide with a deep recession.  However, costs had continued to rise despite not being able to raise base rates all those years.  In order for the utilities to raise capital and operate their businesses, they need to file cases for rate relief.  And back to the original point, the SCC looks at these filings and if they don’t agree with need they reduce the request or reject it.