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WEST VIRGINIA CODE

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CHAPTER 24. PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION.

ARTICLE 2. POWERS AND DUTIES OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION.

§24-2-4b. Procedures for changing rates of electric and natural gas cooperatives, local exchange services of telephone cooperatives, and municipally operated public utilities.

(a) The rates and charges of electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives and municipal water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million, except for municipally operated commercial solid waste facilities as defined in §22-15-2 of this code, and the rates and charges for local exchange services provided by telephone cooperatives are not subject to the rate approval provisions of §24-2-4 or §24-2-4a of this code, but are subject to the limited rate provisions of this section.

(b) All rates and charges set by electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives, and municipally operated public utilities that are political subdivisions of the state providing water, sewer, and/or natural gas services that are subject to the provisions of this section and all rates and charges for local exchange services set by telephone cooperatives shall be just, reasonable, applied without unjust discrimination between or preference for any customer or class of customer and based primarily on the costs of providing these services. All rates and charges shall be based upon the measured or reasonably estimated cost of service and the equitable sharing of those costs between customers based upon the cost of providing the service received by the customer, including a reasonable plant-in-service depreciation expense. The rates and charges shall be adopted by the electric, natural gas, telephone cooperative, or political subdivision’s governing board or body and, in the case of the municipally operated public utility, by municipal ordinance to be effective not sooner than 45 days after adoption. The 45-day waiting period may be waived by public vote of the governing body if that body finds and declares the public utility that is a political subdivision of the state to be in financial distress such that the 45-day waiting period would be detrimental to the ability of the utility to deliver continued and compliant public services: Provided, That notice of intent to effect a rate change shall be specified on the monthly billing statement of the customers of the utility for the month next preceding the month in which the rate change is to become effective and the utility governing body shall give its customers and, in the case of a cooperative, its customers, members, and stockholders, other reasonable notices as will allow filing of timely objections to the proposed rate change and full participation in municipal rate legislation through the provision of a public forum in which customers may comment upon the proposed rate change prior to an enactment vote. The rates and charges or ordinance shall be filed with the commission, together with any information showing the basis of the rates and charges and other information as the commission considers necessary. Any change in the rates and charges with updated information shall be filed with the commission. If a petition, as set out in §24-2-4b(c)(1), §24-2-4b(c)(2), or §24-2-4b(c)(3) of this code, is received and the electric cooperative, natural gas cooperative, or telephone cooperative or municipality has failed to file with the commission the rates and charges with information showing the basis of rates and charges and other information as the commission considers necessary, the suspension period limitation of 120 days and the 100-day period limitation for issuance of an order by a hearing examiner, as contained in §24-2-4b(d) and §24-2-4b(e) of this code, is tolled until the necessary information is filed. The electric cooperative, natural gas cooperative, telephone cooperative or municipality shall set the date when any new rate or charge is to go into effect.

(c) The commission shall review and approve or modify the rates and charges of electric cooperatives, natural gas cooperatives, telephone cooperatives, or municipal natural gas utilities and municipally owned water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state and having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined revenues of less than $3 million upon the filing of a petition within 30 days of the adoption of the ordinance or resolution changing the rates or charges by:

(1) Any customer aggrieved by the changed rates or charges who presents to the commission a petition signed by not less than 25 percent of the customers served by the municipally operated natural gas public utility or municipally owned water and/or sewer utility or 25 percent of the membership of the electric, natural gas, or telephone cooperative residing within the state;

 (2) Any customer who is served by a municipally owned natural gas public utility and who resides outside the corporate limits and who is affected by the change in the rates or charges and who presents to the commission a petition alleging discrimination between customers within and without the municipal boundaries. The petition shall be accompanied by evidence of discrimination; or

 (3) Any customer or group of customers of the municipally owned natural gas public utility who is affected by the change in rates who reside within the municipal boundaries and who present a petition to the commission alleging discrimination between a customer or group of customers and other customers of the municipal utility. The petition shall be accompanied by evidence of discrimination.

(d) (1) The filing of a petition with the commission signed by not less than 25 percent of the customers served by the municipally owned natural gas public utility or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million or 25 percent of the membership of the electric, natural gas, or telephone cooperative residing within the state under §24-2-4b(c) of this code shall suspend the adoption of the rate change contained in the ordinance or resolution for a period of 120 days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect or until an order is issued as provided herein.

(2) Upon sufficient showing of discrimination by customers outside the municipal boundaries or a customer or a group of customers within the municipal boundaries under a petition filed under §24-2-4b(c)(2) or §24-2-4b(c)(3) of this code, the commission shall suspend the adoption of the rate change contained in the ordinance for a period of 120 days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect or until an order is issued as provided herein. A municipal rate ordinance enacted pursuant to the provisions of this section and municipal charter or state code that establishes or proposes a rate increase that results in an increase of less than 25 percent of the gross revenue of the utility shall be presumed valid and rates shall be allowed to go into effect, subject to refund, upon the date stated in that ordinance. Any refund determined to be due and owing as a result of any difference between any final rates approved by the commission and the rates placed into effect subject to refund shall be refunded as a credit against each customer’s account for a period of up to six months after entry of the commission’s final order. Any remaining balance which is not fully credited by credit within six months after entry of the commission’s final order shall be directly refunded to the customer by check. In the case of rates established or proposed that increase by more than 25 percent of the gross revenue of the municipally operated public utility, the utility may apply for, and the commission may grant, a waiver of the suspension period and allow rates to be effective upon enactment.

(e) The commission shall forthwith appoint a hearing examiner from its staff to review the grievances raised by the petitioners. The hearing examiner shall conduct a public hearing and shall, within 100 days from the date the rates or charges would otherwise go into effect, unless otherwise tolled as provided in §24-2-4b(b) of this code, issue an order approving, disapproving, or modifying, in whole or in part, the rates or charges imposed by the electric, natural gas, or telephone cooperative or by the municipally operated public utility pursuant to this section.

(f) Upon receipt of a petition for review of the rates under the provisions of §24-2-4b(c) of this code, the commission may exercise the power granted to it under the provisions of §24-2-3 of this code, consistent with the applicable rate provisions of §8-19-4 of this code and §16-13-16 of this code. The commission may determine the method by which the rates are reviewed and may grant and conduct a de novo hearing on the matter if the customer, electric, natural gas, or telephone cooperative or municipality requests a hearing.

(g) The commission may, upon petition by an electric, natural gas, or telephone cooperative or municipal natural gas public utility or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility, having less than 4,500 customers or annual combined gross revenues of less than $3 million allow an interim or emergency rate to take effect, subject to refund or future modification, if it is determined that the interim or emergency rate is necessary to protect the municipality from financial hardship attributable to the purchase of the utility commodity sold, or the commission determines that a temporary or interim rate increase is necessary for the utility to avoid financial distress. In such cases, the commission shall waive the 45-day waiting period provided for in §24-2-4b(b) of this code and the 120-day suspension period provided for in §24-2-4b(d) of this code.

(h) The commission shall, upon written request of the governing body of a political subdivision, provide technical assistance to the governing body in its deliberations regarding a proposed rate increase.

(i) Notwithstanding any other provision, the commission has no authority or responsibility with regard to the regulation of rates, income, services, or contracts by municipally operated public utilities for services which are transmitted and sold outside of the State of West Virginia.

(j) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission over water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of the state and having at least 4,500 customers and annual gross combined revenues of $3 million or more shall be limited to those powers enumerated in §24-2-1(b) of this code.

(k) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, the jurisdiction of the commission does not extend over the setting and adjustment of the rates, fees, and charges of municipal power systems. The rates, fees, charges, and rate-making process of municipal power systems shall be governed by the provisions of §8-19-2a of this code.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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