Bernstine Announces Legislation Aimed at Requiring Municipal Electric Fairness
5/11/2017
ELLWOOD CITY - State Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) joined with state and community leaders today to announce his introduction of legislation to require borough electric providers to adopt more uniform and reasonable rate structures.

Presently, 36 boroughs across Pennsylvania force their residents to receive electricity through power lines managed by the borough, and are not given the option of purchasing electric from a provider of their choice. Resultantly, residents of these boroughs see their electric bills greatly fluctuate, sometimes increasing by factors of 100 to 200 percent, on a month-to-month basis without an increase in consumer consumption.




“In dozens of boroughs throughout Pennsylvania, municipal electric companies have no oversight. Simply put, there is no accountability that keeps them from imposing dramatic rate increases that impose a huge burden on the residents and businesses that are left with no choice but to pay the skyrocketing bills,” Bernstine said. “Today, I’m introducing legislation that reins in this unethical practice and provides structure for true pricing accountability measures.”

The lawmaker further described the hardship that the fluctuating bills cause: “Residents and businesses in these boroughs have no way to budget for what their electric bill will be, because it can change drastically each month. And the prices are truly becoming exorbitant.” Bernstine continued, “I know of Ellwood City residents who live alone in one-bedroom apartments and pay an unheard of $450 per month in electric bills. And if they can’t pay it, they face the real possibility of their power being turned off.

“Small businesses and residents are choosing to move other places than boroughs like Ellwood City, because they don’t want to deal with the electric bill gouging,” Bernstine said.

Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene/Fayette/Washington) is co-sponsoring Bernstine’s bill. “Customers of the 36 boroughs operating community electric systems deserve basic consumer protections to spare them from untenable increases that can wreak havoc on household budgets,” Snyder noted.

Specifically, Bernstine’s bill would amend Pennsylvania’s Borough Code to require borough electric providers to calculate their rates the same way municipal authorities are required to calculate their rates. Under the proposal, boroughs would develop a uniform and reasonable rate based on several factors, including staff costs, repairs, debt service and more. This rate would then be locked in for three months, with opportunities for readjustment at the end of each three- month period.

“The rate factors that would have to be considered, such as staff costs, repairs and debt service, are the same safeguards required of municipal authorities before electric rate increases are approved,” Snyder said. “I look forward to the introduction of the legislation and supporting it throughout the legislative process to better protect ratepayers in Pennsylvania.”

The bill is receiving support from a broad spectrum of organizations, including: AARP, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, SEIU, Americans for Prosperity–Pennsylvania, CAUSE-PA, and the Western Butler County Authority.

Bernstine emphasized that this bill will no longer allow municipalities to use electric bills as a taxation tool. “Many of these boroughs are using electric bills, in addition to property taxes, for funding. As an example, in 2016, Ellwood City transferred $1.45 million in electric transmission funding to its general fund. This amounted to nearly 30 percent of its entire $5 million budget.

“We need to move now to end the era of municipalities being allowed to tax residents in this way without any accountability measures in place,” Bernstine said.

Representative Aaron Bernstine
10th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Diane Moore
dmoore@pahousegop.com
RepBernstine.com / Facebook.com/RepBernstine


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