SWEPCO says rates will continue to increase until charges are recovered

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - SWEPCO customers agree that they normally pay more during the winter months, but it seems their January bills are double or triple what they have paid in the past. Customers now want answers on the recent rate increase and usage charges they are seeing.

"Well, I'm hoping they can find out exactly what caused this to jump to 2,273 kwh," Carole-Anne Fontaine said.

Carol-Anne Fontaine lives in Longview and says she's been a SWEPCO customer since 2006 and has never paid as much as her January bill says she owes.

"This month it just really socked it to me and I'm thinking, 'wait a minute, I know I paid the bill,' and then it being $163.  I mean, to me that seems exorbitant," Fontaine said.

Kim Ward also lives in Longview and said her electric bill is higher than normal.

"It has been in the past $40 to $50 and now my bill is almost at 100 bucks," Ward said.

Scott McCloud with SWEPCO says rates increased in December and are likely to rise again.

"In Texas, a bill for a residential customer using about 1,000 kwh per month will increase about $13 over the next few months, then drop back around August or September once the retroactive charge has been completely recovered," McCloud said.

These increases were approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas in October. SWEPCO mailed explanation letters in November, and now customers are seeing this base rate increase on their monthly bill.

"Everybody that I've talked to here in Longview has complained that it's just gone sky high," Ward said. "You know their bill is double -- triple for some."

Now some customers are wishing for one thing.

"I would probably have a different electric company if I could," Fontaine said.

Longview, Kilgore and other Northeast Texas cities have formed an alliance and hired an Austin law firm to appeal these utility rate increases. Attorney Alfred Herrera says the commission plans to meet with SWEPCO again within the next two weeks.

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