Dozens of angry residents of the Upper Lynn Canal and Tok complained to the state agency that regulates utilities in the final days of the public comment period about a proposed 25% hike in electricity rates, but the Regulatory Commission of Alaska hasn’t made a decision on how to address the proposed rate hike.

Nearly all of the approximately 100 comments opposed the rate increase proposed by Alaska Power Company, which would start with a 15% increase in October before a permanent increase of 25% at a later date. Many complained about the short notice of the comment period, which opened in mid-August, but which wasn’t publicized until a CVN story on Sept. 7.

Alaska Power Company, a subsidiary of Alaska Power & Telephone, said the rate increase is needed to raise revenue from an operating deficit of $3.65 million in 2022. The company provides power to Haines, Skagway, as well as several other Southeast and Interior communities. About 80% of the power generated in Haines and Skagway is from hydro, but officials say the costs of property taxes and necessary hardware has risen dramatically in recent years.

The majority of commenters were from Haines and Skagway with a handful from other smaller communities. Among the most notable was a nine-page complaint submitted by the city of Skagway by Brena, Bell & Walker, a prominent Anchorage-based law firm. The firm raised issues about the 60-40 equity to debt for its rate of return calculation, APC’s estimate for its return on equity, and its pro forma adjustments used to normalize 2022’s calculation for its $3.65 million operating deficit.

Other commenters raised general concerns about their ability to pay for a 25% increase.

“This increase will be devastating,” wrote Loisa Florit in a Sept. 15 comment. “Please DO NOT APPROVE a rate increase.”

The Three Bears grocery store in Tok wrote that the “abrupt” 15% increase “is likely to have an effect on decisions for the price of goods paid by the residents of Tok and surrounding areas.”

“It’s pretty scary to think that families will lose their homes due to unfettered capitalism. THIS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE,” wrote Nancy Keen of Haines.

“We will have to close down if the power rates go up 25%!!!!!!! Help!!!!” wrote Christy Fowler, the owner of the Pioneer Bar in Haines.

Others bemoaned what they felt was inadequate public notice. Notices were published in the Juneau Empire and Peninsula Clarion, which aren’t widely distributed in areas affected by the increase.

“Nothing has been sent to me or to the Slana PO for posting,” wrote Mary Frances DeHart of the Copper River village of Slana.

“I became aware of the proposed rate increase after the local paper printed an article about it – and only because they happened to find a paper with the proposed rate increase by accident. I assure you none of us in this town were aware up until that time,” wrote Angela Wilde.

Several commenters suggested extending the comment period by several weeks, or suspending the rate increase.

Steve Jones, a spokesperson for the RCA, said that the commission could still suspend the rate increase, or it could decide to approve the increase before its Sept. 28 deadline.

At least seven comments were received after the official comment deadline of Sept. 15. Jones said those comments would be “noted” but wouldn’t carry the same weight as those received before the deadline.

Some people complained about the website itself, which they said was hard to use and excluded people who aren’t computer-savvy.

“In fact, my wife and I have tried numerous times over the past couple of days to comment, but have been unable to do so due to apparent technical issues on your website. We have heard from others who have had similar issues,” wrote Mike Denker and Lisa Blank, from Haines.

Denker and Blank also complained about the timing of the notice, which ended on Sept. 15, the day moose hunting season starts in Haines.

The RCA has until Sept. 28 to make a decision, according to state law.