July 15, 2005 – Have we reached the age of the kinder, gentler Alberto Bruno-Vega?
Earlier this week the executive director of the V.I. Water and Power Authority agreed to comply with a law passed Tuesday by the Senate mandating that WAPA begin negotiations with an independent power supplier.
He had been vehemently opposed to that law when it was proposed last year.
Then on Friday he was talking about "productive" and "positive" meetings with the consultants for the Public Services Commission — consultants whom he previously had nothing but criticism for.
The first result of this new relationship is a compromise on how the levelized energy adjustment charge, or LEAC, is calculated. Essentially, LEAC is the variable cost in residents' power bills.
PSC legal counsel Boyd Sprehn said the major plus for the consumer is that the agreement puts a 5-percent cap on WAPA residential rate increases from month to month.
Boyd said that this would protect the consumer from possible spikes in their bill if the cost of oil goes up $10 or $12 a barrel, "which is in the realm of possibility."
He added that he had been reading that "with one or two bad events the price of a barrel of oil could spike to $80."
This was not enough for PSC member Jerris Browne who said, "I don't think anyone on this board wants to see any more raises in LEAC."
Bruno-Vega responded that, as there had to be protection for consumers, there had to be protection for WAPA, too. He said, "When will WAPA bust at the seams? I think we are fast approaching that." He continued, "If WAPA goes belly up, the community goes belly up."
Sprehn did offer that, using the new calculation, it appeared that there would be no raise in August billing.
The new agreement will be in effect through Oct. 31, 2005.
Commission members approved the measure after they were assured that they would be able to make changes if the new calculations did not work.
Amidst all the compromise, at the end of the meeting a commission member went as far as to ask WAPA representatives if they would withdraw a lawsuit WAPA had filed against PSC. The lawsuit would appear to be moot, if WAPA does comply with the new law.
However, WAPA officials hesitated on hearing the question and after legal consultation said only that the lawsuit was under review.
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