The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 11, 2012

Our View: Reasonable and justified

Employees and crews of Empire District Electric Co. performed heroically after the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Many of their substations were damaged, one was wiped out, as were thousands of poles, transformers and at least 100 miles of electric line.

Yet it was startling to drive through areas that still looked like war zones not long after the tornado and see new power poles and power lines. It was a milestone for areas when street lights came back on in their neighborhoods.

Keep in mind that Empire pulled this off while many of its employees and their families were struggling to get out from under the wreckage of their own tornado-wrecked homes and businesses.

Last week, Empire filed for its first rate increase since that storm. It is asking regulators to allow it to recover more than $30 million in expenses, including more than $6 million associated with the tornado. That and other costs, including those stemming from tougher environmental regulations for mercury emissions and more aggressive vegetation management to reduce outages, will mean a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will see a net rate increase of about $6.60 per month once lower fuel costs are factored in.

Empire, for the only time in its long history, suspended dividends after the storm, meaning shareholders bore the brunt of some of those emergency costs.

Given the amount of the devastation on May 22, 2011, $6.60 a month doesn’t seem like much of a cost to bear. That nobody wants their electric rates to go up goes without saying, but the increase seems justified and reasonable under the circumstances.

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