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Dark Winter: Pennsylvania Energy Prices Will Spike Up To 50% This December

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Electricity prices are set to rise upwards of 50% in some areas of Pennsylvania as winter looms. Starting on December 1, eight Pennsylvania electric utilities are set to raise prices. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued a statement where they urged consumers to evaluate energy needs and search for ways to save.

“The upcoming price changes, combined with falling temperatures, make this an important time for consumers and businesses to evaluate their energy options and explore ways to save money and energy in the coming months,” said PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille.

Peco Energy, which serves Philadelphia and its suburbs, will boost its energy charge by 6.4% starting on December 1. PPL Electric Utilities, an Allentown-based company that services large sections of Bucks, Montgomery and Chester Counties, will impose a 26% price hike in December. The PPL increase will add roughly $40 extra to an electric bill for an average household. Energy charges account for about half of an average residential utility bill.

“Most Pennsylvania regulated electric utilities are adjusting the price they charge for the generation portion of customers’ bills on December 1 for non-shopping customers, also known as the ‘Price to Compare’ (PTC),” the PUC explained. “The PTC averages 40% to 60% of the customer’s total utility bill. However, this percent varies by the utility and by the level of individual customer usage.”

Pike County Light & Power, which serves approximately 4,800 customers in northeast Pennsylvania, will see the largest surge in their PTCs and subsequent price hike. Energy charges for Pike County Light & Power are expected to go from 6.5234 cents to 9.796 cents per kilowatt (kWh), which represents a spike of 50.2%.

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From PennWatch.org:

Beginning December 1, electric distribution companies report the following changes in their PTCs for residential customers:

  • Citizens’ Electric, up from 6.9777 cents to 7.9476 cents per kWh (13.9%);
  • Duquesne Light, up from 7.41 cents to 7.98 cents per kWh (7.7%);
  • Met-Ed, up from 7.114 cents to 7.414 cents per kWh (4.2%);
  • PECO, up from 6.597 cents to 7.021 cents per kWh (6.4%);
  • Penelec, down from 6.761 cents to 6.507 cents per kWh (3.8%);
  • Penn Power, down from 7.657 cents to 7.593 cents per kWh (less than 1%);
  • PPL, up from 7.544 cents to 9.502 cents per kWh (26%);
  • Pike County Light & Power, up from 6.5234 cents to 9.796 cents per kWh (50.2%);
  • Wellsboro Electric, up from 7.2596 cents to 7.5051 cents per kWh (3.4%); and
  • West Penn Power, up from 5.447 cents to 5.698 cents per kWh (4.6%);

Energy price increased are compounding burdens already placed on inflation-racked Pennsylvania consumers. Not long ago, the natural gas industry was contributing to sustained economic growth in several Pennsylvania counties. The City of Williamsport, which is largely known as the home of the Little League World Series, was ranked as the seventh-fastest growing community in the U.S. as of 2015. The Williamsport area benefitted from an explosion in shale natural gas development, commonly extracted through the process of fracking.

Williamsport and other regions that experienced economic growth as a result of shale production experienced influxes of companies from traditional oil-producing regions such as Texas. Pennsylvania is home to what is believed to be the second largest natural gas reserve in the nation in the Marcellus Shale, which contains an estimated 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.

The Biden administration has taken action against the natural gas industry, which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state and surrounding regions, despite Biden having said otherwise on the campaign trail. The administration wants a dramatic raise on drilling prices for energy companies seeking to drill on public lands. While Biden’s proposals have stopped short of a ban for the time being, many on the progressive left have called for a complete ban on fracking and associated natural gas drilling, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

A recent Interior Department report recommended increasing royalty rates and rents for drillers, prioritizing leasing in areas with known resource potential and avoiding leasing in areas that can be developed to protect wildlife habitat, recreation and cultural resources.

The report was ordered by President Biden in January. Biden directed a halt to new federal oil and gas lease sales on public lands and waters, but a Louisiana federal judge blocked the administration’s suspension in June. Drilling on public lands generates billions of dollars in revenue but also, according to the administration, contributes to “roughly a quarter of the country’s planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.”

Pennsylvania Democrats have also taken aim at natural gas drilling despite economic benefit. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro commissioned a two-year report on natural gas drilling effects in the state that wrapped up this past May.

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Shapiro, who is running for governor and is the favorite to win the Democrat nomination for 2022, has taken a hard stance against the industry despite Pennsylvania ranking as the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer behind Texas.

Following the findings, Democrat members of the PA legislature have proposed a series of bills that would further clamp down on the industry at the state level.

Some Pennsylvania Republicans have also been blamed for the state’s surging energy prices. ACT 89, a transportation bill signed into law by Republican Governor Tom Corbett in 2013, raised gas taxes in order to pay for infrastructure overhaul. Under Act 89, in January 2014 the gas tax went from 31 to 40 cents per gallon, and in 2015 it rose from 40 to 50 cents.

It is a percentage tax imposed at the wholesale level. Prior to Act 89 there was a $1.25 cap on the base fuel price that was taxed, even though the wholesale price was much higher.

“Here in Pennsylvania gas prices are through the roof due in large part to Act 89 — the toxic legislation signed into law by former Rino Governor Tom Corbett,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale in a tweet. Act 89 was supported by several notable state Republicans, including Senate President pro tempore Jake Corman.

Gale, who is seeking the Republican nod for governor along with Corman, blasted the state GOP for giving “Pennsylvania drivers the highest gasoline tax in the nation at over 58 cents per gallon.”

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