American Electric Power wants customers to pay costs from storms


COLUMBUS — The utility company American Electric Power wants to make its Ohio customers pick up the $61.8 million tab for repairs from last summer's severe storms.

The utility's reimbursement request filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is one of the largest ever in the state, The Columbus Dispatch reported today.

The increase, if approved by the commission, would cost about $3 a month for a typical household for a year. That works out to about a 2-percent rate increase.

The public utility commission will review the plan and take testimony from other interested parties. A ruling isn't expected until at least the spring.

AEP's system sustained mass power failures because of a June 29 storm that downed trees, snapped power poles and turned bits of debris into projectiles. Nearly half of the utility's 1.5 million Ohio customers lost power, some for more than a week.

The $61.8 million reimbursement was requested in a filing late last month. It includes damage from the June 29 storm, plus thunderstorms that hit July 18 and July 26.

Utility spokeswoman Terri Flora said the costs that resulted "are above and beyond what we would normally spend." The company says the June 29 storm alone, with winds exceeding 80 mph, was so severe that no system could withstand it and no amount of planning could prepare for it.

"There is not a utility in this country that does not (go to customers) to recover costs for large-scale storms," Flora told the Dispatch. "We recognize that customers were inconvenienced during the storm, but the work we did was helpful in maintaining our system, and the customer gets the benefit."

Jason Gilham, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said the damage claim is likely the largest ever filed by a utility in the state.

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