Two of the state's largest energy-user groups are criticizing Rocky Mountain Power's recent announcement that the utility plans to scale back service due to a reduced rate increase granted by the Utah Public Service Commission in August.

The Utah Association of Energy Users and the Utah Industrial Energy Users issued a news release Wednesday stating that they believe the rate increase that the commission approved was fair. The Utah Association of Energy Users is a nonprofit group composed of industrial and commercial companies that employ more than 40,000 workers, and the Utah Industrial Energy Users is a consortium of nine large manufacturers.

The groups said the commission's decision was "the reasoned result" of an eight-month process that included dozens of expert witnesses, hundreds of exhibits and lengthy hearings.

"The order is fair and doesn't warrant the kind of dramatic statements recently issued by Rocky Mountain Power," the ratepayer groups said.

The utility this month said that effective this coming Monday, it would implement sweeping changes that include reducing customer service and eliminating discretionary maintenance. The utility also said that it would "ultimately consider curtailing electric service when the cost of purchasing electricity to serve customers in Utah is prohibitive and exceeds the funding the commission provided to purchase and generate electricity to serve customers."

Rocky Mountain Power also asked the commission to reconsider the utility's rate-increase request and challenged the commission's decision to approve a $33.4 million rate hike, when the utility had requested more than twice that.

Rocky Mountain Power said the increase the commission granted was not enough to meet the utility's needs to serve its growing customer base.

But the two ratepayer groups said the utility's plans to reduce service "must not be countenanced" and appear "designed to cause fear and concern among Utah ratepayers and to criticize Utah's regulatory community."

"The most basic obligation of a regulated utility is to provide reliable, low-cost utility services," the groups said. "It is Rocky Mountain Power's responsibility to provide all appropriate utility services to its customers and to comply with commission orders and requirements."

Gary Dodge, an attorney for the Utah Association of Energy Users and the Utah Industrial Energy Users, said the groups plan to file a response with the Public Service Commission to seek the right to have their voices heard as the commission reviews Rocky Mountain Power's disputed rate case.

"We will defend the positions we took and the commission reached," Dodge said.

If the utility makes a formal appeal to the state Supreme Court, his clients also would also seek to be heard during that proceeding, he said.

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