By MAX GARLAND
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill consumer advocates warned would allow manufacturers to receive a discount on their electric bills at the expense of residential customers died in the state Senate Wednesday on a 17-17 vote.
The bill (Senate Bill 600) would have allowed “energy-intensive industrial or manufacturing” consumers to negotiate with utilities on contracts that would lower their electric bills.
But Senate Democrats echoed the criticisms consumer advocates voiced last week, saying discounts to manufacturers would just lead to higher electric bills for residential customers. Utility rate increases require approval from the state Public Service Commission, which did not take a position on the bill.
Residents, who have also seen their electric bills climb in recent years, would have to make up the difference in West Virginia’s regulated market, where utilities are guaranteed a profit, consumer advocates have argued. Jacqueline Roberts, director of the state Public Service Commission’s Consumer Advocate Division, said last week the bill didn’t address the particulars of how much residential customers would be affected.
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