The Ely Times

Mt. Wheeler Power General Manager Kevin Robison gave a presentation on the November election ballot Question 3 and asked for a possible position adoption by Ely City Council at last week’s City Council Meeting.

Robison asked the council and mayor of how many were aware of what the Question 3 does?

Robison explained this initiative would be an amendment to the state’s constitution, and if passed would become very problematic.

It was reported that in 2016 the rural counties were a 50/50 split outside of the urban counties like Clark and Washoe Counties. The ballots of the vote ended up 72 percent in favor and 28 percent against.

White Pine County was unique, being the only county out of 17 that actually defeated the measure by 4-5 votes.

Robison said, “That gave us the opportunity to make a position on where we stood. What this amendment would do, is take away all our generation rights, so we would have to aggregate those contracts that we have entered into to provide all of us that low cost power that we enjoy today.”

One issue Mt. Wheeler power has  identified and is a severe significance to them, as far as a member of utility, is the preying on the elderly or low income who become very vulnerable. In the presentation, a finding of the Massachusetts Attorney General was given.  In a two year period, residential customers of Massachusetts paid a premium of $176 million over and above of what they would have in regulated environments.

“To us that is something that’s very critical,” Robinso said. “Being all electric, we don’t have those enjoyments of natural gas,  we have 70 percent of our customers base being electric.”

Examples were given of the price difference in kilowatt hours according to the Department of Energy for the month of March 2018.  California pays 19.71 cents per kilowatt hours, for a Mt. Wheeler customer it is 6.6 cents per kilowatt hours.

Robinson posed the question during his presentation, “Why are we concerned? Rate impacts on our customers.  We are an at-cost utility. Proudly, I can tell you we have the lowest rates in the entire state.

“Being at-cost we only want to recover what it costs us to operate.  It’s a very simple concept and it’s worked for us very well. “

Robinson said if Question 3 is passed, Mt. Wheeler Power would still operate the power and lines, that fixed cost for each residential customer would be $56 a month, equaling to $660 every year just for this service. This does not include the third party each customer would have to choose a power source from.

An average bill for Mt. Wheeler Power customer right now is $96, but that could increase to as much as $190 a month, almost double.

“Rates would rise, and you would be put into a profit owed culture, something that we are not used to,” Robinson said.

Robinson quoted Sen. Pete Goichachea saying, “If Question 3 were passed the ramifications would be detrimental to the hard working residents in small businesses in our rural communities across the state.”

Robinson noted that he couldn’t say he was against open markets but this was not the way to do it, explaining that the constitution amendment makes this solution permanent.

“In Pennsylvania, during the winter, we seen our elderly people faced with $1,100 power bills because of an unexpected winter storm. That’s not something we want for our community,” Robinson said.

Hanson made a motion to create a resolution in opposition to Question 3. The vote was approved unanimously.