A proposed rate hike for the state's largest power company drew supporters and critics at hearings in the Milwaukee area Monday. One controversial part of the WE Energies plan is who should pay for attorneys charging about $700 an hour.
WE Energies wants to raise electricity rates five percent next year, and three percent the year after. That's too much for Dr. Patricia McManus of Milwaukee's Black Health Coalition, "This hasn't been said that WE Energies needs this to survive," she says.
The Citizens Utility Board wants the state Public Service Commission to slice the rate hike by about $45 million, because of the extent to which WE Energies lawyered-up when fighting court cases with environmental groups and a contractor over the expansion of the Oak Creek power plant. Charlie Higley is CUB's executive director, "Seven hundred dollars an hour is what some of the lawyers billed WE Energies."
But construction unions that do work for WE Energies are backing the company's rate plan. So is Bob Seitz of Wisconsin Utility Investors, Inc., who says company stockholders that helped pay for the Oak Creek expansion should not get hit with the legal bill, "Any effort to shift costs to these stockholders has a direct effect on their household income."
The PSC will decide the WE Energies rate case later this fall.