On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, GASP and 12 other organizations, led by Daniel Tait at Energy Alabama, petitioned the Alabama Public Service Commission to provide some relief to Alabamians struggling with ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19. We sent a letter urging the Commissioners to refund customers for the more than $100 million that we have overpaid to Alabama Power for fuel costs through May of this year.
“After COVID-19, many states around the country took action to refund customers for overpaid fuel costs,” Tait said in an email to AL.com. “Some customers may be months behind on their utility bills and the least we can do is to return their own money. We’re hopeful that the Alabama PSC will stand on the side of the people.”
The PSC initially balked at the idea, telling al.com that they could not take such action. But that was never the case, and the Commissioners apparently reconsidered. Today, they voted to do just what we asked. PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh released a statement to the blog Yellowhammer News immediately in which she estimates that the standard bill credit to be around $25.
“Returning $100 million to customers of Alabama Power is the right thing to do at just the right time,” she told the blog. “The coronavirus pandemic has had such a significant impact on Alabama families and small businesses. Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery.”
We couldn’t agree more, Commissioner. This decision will help a lot of Alabamians. We’re elated that you took the advice of GASP and our partner groups.
Read the July 15 letter below:
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Submitted via e-mail
Alabama Public Service Commission
Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh
Commissioner Jeremy H. Oden, Place 1
Commissioner Chris “Chip” Beeker, Place 2
100 North Union Street
P.O. Box 304260
Montgomery, AL 36130
On behalf of the members of the undersigned organizations, we urge you to take immediate action to refund customers for the amount they have overpaid Alabama Power for fuel, according to information filed in Docket 18148. As of May 2020, customers have overpaid Alabama Power for fuel by $112 million.1
Considering the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), customers need relief now more than ever. The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) has a duty to all Alabamians to act immediately.
The PSC did not take official action to cease disconnections and late fees, despite requests from community organizations throughout the state. Georgia Power, the sister company of Alabama Power, is set to begin disconnections today, July 15 however, neither the Alabama PSC nor Alabama Power have communicated its plans to the public.
Thousands of Alabamians are at risk of disconnection and many are likely months behind on their utility bill payments. Data from North Carolina shows just under 800,000 residential customers and 60,000 non-residential customers eligible for disconnection and owing $253 million in payments.2
The PSC is able to provide some financial relief and Alabamians deserve decisive action from its elected leaders.
In Florida, the Public Service Commission ordered the state’s regulated utilities to refund fuel savings back to customers. Tampa Electric refunded customers $130 million3, Florida Power & Light issued customers a one-time bill credit of just over $204, and Duke Energy provided customers a one-time ~20% reduction in their monthly bill5.
We urge the Alabama Public Service Commission to issue an order to refund customers the $112 million in excess fuel costs they have paid Alabama Power. We further ask for an update from the Commission on its plans for utility disconnection and late fee policies through the end of the year.
As we stated in March of this year, the Alabama Public Service Commission has an opportunity to provide that reliability and stability to the people of Alabama during the one of the greatest public health and economic crises of our lifetime.
We still remain hopeful that you will yet rise to the challenge.
Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Pastor, Saint Junia United Methodist Church
Carla Crowder, Executive Director, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
Rev. Carolyn Foster, Tri-Chair, Alabama Poor People’s Campaign
Michael Hansen, Executive Director, GASP
Robyn Hyden, Executive Director, Alabama Arise
Cindy Lowry, Executive Director, Alabama Rivers Alliance
Rev. Michael Malcom, Executive Director, Alabama Interfaith Power and Light
Cara McClure and Eric Hall, Co-Founders, Black Lives Matter Birmingham
Charles Scribner, Executive Director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper
Stephen Stetson, Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club
Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer, Energy Alabama
Jessica Vosburgh, Executive & Legal Director, Adelante Alabama Worker Center
1 See: https://www.pscpublicaccess.alabama.gov/pscpublicaccess/PSC/PSCDocumentDetailsPage.aspx?DocumentId=0a56a562-f1e0-4303-b5b1-7f42e398e9db&Class=Filing
2 See: https://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/ViewFile.aspx?Id=24043568-beb8-47e7-bf32-723aed9ca95f
3 See: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/325342-teco-plans-to-pass-130m-in-fuel-savings-to-customers-to-help-offsetcoronavirus-losses
4 See: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/2020/03/30/fpl-bills-may-cut-may-doe-coronavirus-economics/5086973002/
Michael joined GASP in 2013 as communications specialist. He has lived in Birmingham since 2008, and is an active member of the Birmingham community. He’s a passionate advocate for health equity, civil rights and equality. He is currently serving as executive director. Email Michael