Consumer session a dud |

Consumer session a dud

Jim Scripps

Warm weather may have cooled the tempers of some Northern Nevada utility customers.

A consumer session held by Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission on Monday evening attracted only a handful of disgruntled utility customers, while the lure of spring sunshine may have kept the rest away.

The session was held in response to overwhelming crowds at meetings held earlier this year when commissioners started deliberating an electric rate hike request by Sierra Pacific Power.

Monday’s meeting at the commission board room on William Street in Carson City had all the potential to be just as volatile, but aside from a handful of customers, the nearly empty meeting was attended only by utility company representatives, commissioners and staff members.

“It seems that softball is winning out tonight,” said commission Chairman Don Soderberg after only one consumer complained about high natural gas bills.

The one piece of news came when Edward Gieseking, a manager with Southwest Gas, who announced the company is not likely to request a rate hike in its yearly filing with the commission this June because wholesale natural gas prices are on the decline.

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“The plan now is to continue with the rates we have in effect,” he said. If rates continue to drop enough, he said the company may ask for a natural gas rate reduction by next winter.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, also spoke to the board, asking it to keep gas rates on the agenda, even as Northern Nevada enters the warm season when bills drop drastically.

“I would request on behalf of the citizens of Carson City you consider all efforts to reduce rates,” she said. “We have heard from people who live in poorly insulated mobile homes with gas bills over $200.”

It’s the same problem that drew Bobby Tracz to the meeting. She was the one consumer who took the microphone, speaking to the three-member board. She said while most consumers can grudgingly pay the higher bills, the hardship hits home for her retired mother.

“It seems unfair that people who have saved all their lives have to pay for ridiculously priced utility bills,” she said. “I don’t believe that my dad worked for 30-40 years for that.”