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Controversy at the City owned utility: citizens will "starve to death"

Ref. 10/01/2008 By Associated Press (extract)

The Tennessee Valley Authority's largest electric rate increase in more than three decades takes effect Wednesday as thousands of consumers already are struggling to pay their power bills and avoid service cutoffs. A 20 percent rate hike from the nation's largest public utility is expected to add $15.80 to $19.80 a month to the average residential bill. It's TVA's biggest rate boost since 1974 and its second this year.

The hike takes effect in a week of alarming financial news, with the biggest one-day point drop in Wall Street history and the failure of a federal bailout plan that President Bush pitched as essential to steady the struggling economy. Consumers are worried about how they'll pay the higher bills when other basics such as gas and groceries are costing more, too...

Nearly all of TVA's 159 distributors in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia are expected to pass the higher rates on to their customers - factories, businesses and some 8.8 million residents. The electric rate increase was blamed on skyrocketing costs for coal and natural gas to fuel TVA's power plants and a three-year drought that has hurt TVA's hydroelectric dams, the agency's cheapest source of electricity...

TVA cuts rates 4 percent

(This concerns Johnson City, but Bristol is also on TVA.)

Plunging prices for natural gas and lower demand for electricity should mean a break for area electricity customers come January, when the Tennessee Valley Authority will reduce its charge to local power distributors, the agency announced Thursday, adding that "residential customers can expect a decrease ranging from about $4 to $8 in their monthly power bills."

The reduction likely will amount to about 4 percent, and help offset an increase from TVA for the quarter that began Oct. 1, which resulted in a nearly 17 percent hike in energy costs for Johnson City Power Board customers...that news was a welcome relief to officials at the JCPB, which also is working on a plan to contribute to a safety net for customers struggling to pay their bills. JCPB commissioners directed staff members at their October meeting to seek ways the Power Board can bolster the resources available for customers who are struggling to pay their bills...

Were rates to drop to 9.42 cents per kilowatt hour, a JCPB customer using 2,000 kwh a month (not uncommon during the winter heating season) would see a savings of nearly $8 a month and an "energy charge" of about $188.40 instead of $196.40 at the current rate. For the January-March period of 2008, that same 2,000 kilowatt hours would have cost a JCPB customer about $147. 11/14/2008 Kingsport Times-News

What do residents say?

I've sit with some elderly people (some in their eighties) and watched them struggle with trying to pay their bills, especially utilities, because Social Services in Bristol refused to help them. Most of them couldn't even buy the food they needed. Did we need the Optinet that much????? They're not retirees moving here, they are local people born here and struggling all their life to survive....

TVA needs to consider that smaller towns and rural area citizens do not receive the same pay scale that larger cities do. My mother is 87 years old and worked until age 65. She only gets a little more than $500 a month, because of what wages were when she worked. Her most recent light bill was $276, more than half of what she draws per month. There is nothing she can cut out of her budget to pay these ridiculous rates. Let the TVA executives try living on $500 a month and see how far they get.

I can't believe this!! I cannot afford to live in the Bristol Virginia area anymore..this is nuts!!! Since the beginning of the phone/cable/internet service at BVU they have had financial problems that have evidently been passed on to customers who use their sorry electric service. The electrical service and water service in the Bristol VA limits is so bad that we almost see a monthly power outage or water line break. Where is the money going?

Cable Ready Socialism What happens when a public utility (Bristol, Virginia Utilities or BVU) decide to wipe out private business after going over $50 million in debt?

Travelocity: A warning for region? got about $10 million in corporate welfare and decides to dump Clintwood, Virginia for India. Congressman Rick Boucher (D VA 9th) calls this a success story and that he deserves full credit.

'People are going to starve to death'

Update August 21, 2008: The AP reports that TVA has approved a 20 percent rate hike worth $2 billion. This is the largest hike since a 20.2% hike in 1974.

It seems that the pathetic minimum wage increase won't be going very far. Bristol VA/TN and much of the surrounding area is on TVA, which has announced a rate increase of as much as 25%. Much of the cost increases are being caused by low lake levels caused by drought, which are cutting into hydro production, and the cost of coal. TVA generates 55-60 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants and buys about 11% from other producers. Coal costs have doubled since 2007.

According to, "In particular, the delivered price of coal at electric utilities (a subset of the electric power sector) increased for a sixth consecutive year, to $34.26 per short ton (1.53 dollars per million Btu), up 9.7 percent from the prior year." Other sources say coal was selling for $30 a ton in 2003, and quoting the Times Dispatch (March 8, 2008), "The cash price for coal that utilities burn to generate electricity exceeded $101 per ton this week at a West Virginia mine served by Norfolk Southern Railway...Central Appalachian coal climb(ed) from less than $50 per ton on the spot, or cash, market in October to roughly $85 per ton at the end of February."

"I don't know what people are going to do," said Maj. Peggy Mullins of the Bristol Salvation Army. "I don't know how people are going to be able to survive. People are going to starve to death." This year, the Salvation Army has been contacted by more "working people" seeking financial help with utility bills. (BHC 8/7/2008) The average TVA consumer in Bristol uses 1,320 kilowatt-hours costing about $125 per month. (That's what I pay now.) An increase of 25% will bring this over $156 per month, almost a weeks wage for many low-income Bristol workers. When Bristol Virginia Utilities joined TVA January 1, 2008 it raised its rates by 18% then.

There's some programs already in place at Bristol Virginia Utilities, Bristol Tennessee Electric, and Atmos Energy (a gas supplier) that might help. It's called the "Help Your Neighbor" program where others donate to help others. But to quote the BVU CEO Wes Rosenbalm, "I knew with all that was going on in the energy market, there would be some increase but had no idea it would be the magnitude of the percentage I'm hearing. That caught us a little off guard, and it's certainly a bad time to have an increase - not that there is a good time." So not counting their 40% rate hike in 2005, BVU will raise its rates another possible 43% in 2008. Yeah Wes, we are going to have people dying here.

Also see Mass Shooting in Bristol, Tennessee Public Housing
Zero Tolerance Policies and African Americans in Tennessee Schools

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