Petition will voice consumer opposition to rate hikes

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A petition drive is under way to show the Nevada Public Utilities Commission the public's distaste for a requested rate hike by Sierra Pacific Power Co.

Wanda Wright, owner of Reno-based WW Ranch Supply, said the drive she started as president of the Warm Springs Property Owners Association has grown, netting more than 1,500 signatures to date. Ideally, she would like to present the utilities commission with 10,000 signatures in support of a "No" vote on the rate hike.

"It's a hardship enough for people to pay higher utility bills," she said Thursday. "If they increase it more, what are we going to do?"

So far, the petition has been available at her store on Virginia Street, the Sparks Big Nickel and Transmission Exchange on Rock Boulevard, as well as locations in Fallon and Goldfield. Since she started, Wright said she has seen a long line of residents -- mostly senior citizens -- who say current prices are already forcing them to sacrifice in other areas to keep up with costs.

"It just got to be more than enough," she said. "I live in Palomino Valley and they recently came up with some trumped-up delivery charge. I used to pay $12 or $15; now it's half of my power bill.

"They originally charged me $40,000 to bring in power poles to my property. I had to choose: live in a warm house or feed the horses -- my house is 40 degrees."

Wright is protesting a company plan to increase its revenues by $28 million. This represents an overall 4 percent increase in the flat rate customers pay, money the company could add to its profit picture.

Today, the company is also expected to request at least $177 million in added fuel and power-purchase costs, which appears as another portion of customers' bills.

If approved by the commission, the increases would tack an additional 20 percent to the per-unit cost of power in Northern Nevada.

Newspaper exposure in Reno and television reports on two Northern Nevada newscasts have helped spread the word about Wright's cause. Now she is looking for volunteers in Carson City and Douglas County to sponsor the drive with petitions at local businesses.

"It's really hard if you are not ambulatory and you live in Carson, Minden or Gardnerville" to make it to Reno, she said. "I would like these people to have an opportunity to sign."

Wright has set up a telephone line for the effort, from which she directs interested signers to their nearest petitioner, and attempts to expand petition locations. The petition hot line number is 327-4677.

The commission is set to consider action on the two rate increases by this summer. The company will come before the board April 8 for the first in a series of meetings where commissioners will try to determine the legitimacy of the rate increase requests before a vote is taken.

Sierra Pacific Resources will give the public an opportunity to voice its opinion about the proposed rate adjustments at several consumer sessions.

In the capital area, meetings will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 in the commission's hearing room A, located at 1150 E. William St., and at 6 p.m. March 4 at 6 p.m. at the Carson Valley Inn.

Petition information

The Sierra Pacific petition hot line number is 327-4677.


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