An $8.2 million rate reduction for US WEST Communications is being praised by the chairman of the Utah Committee of Consumer Services.

The reduction stems from a stipulation entered into by US WEST, the Utah Division of Public Utilities and the committee last December and given formal approval by the Utah Public Service Commission on Jan. 3. US WEST recently released a rate breakdown on how it would affect residential and business customers in various areas of the state served by the company.The commission will begin hearing on the third phase of a major rate case involving US WEST that began last fall. The next phase, which begins Feb. 28, will focus heavily on the company's request for an incentive rate plan that would allow the company to keep a portion of any earnings above a specified profit margin and to use that money to make system improvements if the company can show that the increased earnings stem from improved company efficiency.

Lee Hogan, committee chairman, said the stipulated agreement is an indication that US WEST continues to have good earnings even while customer rates are being reduced. Hogan noted that the decrease is the sixth in a series of reductions that have reduced rates by $75 million annually ordered by the commission in recent years.

Hogan said the reduction is also likely to help small businesses that have been pressured by the current economic recession.