Paducah, Kentucky residents say electric bills too high

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — Paducah, Kentucky residents upset over sky-high electric rates thanks to cost overruns at a new power plant say they have no idea when they might get some relief.

Electric utility officials spoke at the city commission meeting last week, and the public was given a chance to ask questions about the high electric rates.

Many echoed the concerns of Vicky Holland, a single mother of two who said her electric bills have been $900 a month. Holland said had to take on extra jobs last winter to help pay her bills, The Paducah Sun reported.

"If I lose my house, I will seek a lawyer," she said at the meeting Tuesday night.

The local electric utility, Paducah Power System, has a contract for electricity from the Prairie State Energy Campus, a southwestern Illinois power plant that was funded by municipalities like Paducah and other small Midwestern communities. The 1,600 MW power plant ended up costing about $4 billion to develop — twice the original estimate.

The Sun has reported that Paducah residents pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state.

"It's probably the most serious problem for Paducah since the Great Flood," Mayor Gayle Kaler said. "It really is."

Along with Prairie State executives, Rick Soderholm of Leidos Engineering also attended the forum. Soderholm wrote the original engineering report for the Prairie State project. At the meeting, he acknowledged Paducah's rates are higher than they should be, but said he expected rates to decline, though he and other officials could not say when.

"We're convinced ... that going forward, your rates are going to be very, very stable," he said.

City Commissioner Sandra Wilson said she wasn't sure from the company's presentation that rates would decrease.

"I appreciate you saying you think we're going to get to a stable rate, but to me, a stable rate doesn't mean lower. It just means it's going to be stable and it could mean stable at a high rate," Wilson said.

The Kentucky Municipal Power Agency, which is comprised of the Paducah Power System and the Princeton (Kentucky) Electric Plant Board, owns nearly eight percent of Prairie State.

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, the commission passed a resolution ordering the Paducah Power System board to hire independent specialists to look into the original decision to invest in Prairie State and find ways to help customers pay their bills.

"I do think the Paducah Power board is really struggling with what to do," Commissioner Carol Gault said. "I truly feel the current board members understand the dilemma, but they just don't know what to do."

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