Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen and the V.I. Public Services Commission were again in front of V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks Friday to spar over the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause – or LEAC.
The PSC was in hot water with Willocks over an order he signed on Sept. 1 requesting the PSC to appear and show cause why they failed to comply with the V.I. Code by not filing requested documents. The PSC was ordered to respond to a petition of appeal filed by Hansen on Aug. 9.
Hansen’s petition challenges the legality of LEAC, which arose from a motion filed in July to stop the current rate increases. The appeal states that Hansen and the citizens of the V.I. “will suffer irreparable financial and property loss by the recent PSC rate increase to the LEAC without considering below market prices from Hovensa.”
The PSC didn’t file the appropriate documents as ordered within the allotted 20-day time period the statute requires. According to PSC attorney Boyd Sprehn, he misunderstood the statute and thought he had 20 days from the last petition of appeal filed, which was on Aug. 30. However, Willocks said the code is very clear and should be applied from the date the original petition was filed, which was Aug 9.
“For whatever reason, the ball was dropped – and the court finds that the statute is clear, it’s not an issue of interpretation, case law acknowledges the same,” Willocks said. “The PSC must submit documents as stated.”
Later, Hansen’s attorney George H. Hodge Jr. asked Willocks if he would stay the current LEAC rates. Hodge said that he had heard that the PSC was once again going to hike its rates and he wanted to spare the people of the V.I. more hardship.
A visibly frustrated Willocks replied, “Under what legal standing? Emotions don’t live here – argue law. Give me a statute – case law or something. Don’t give me emotions, this is a court of law.”
Sprehn immediately approached the bench, apparently with a letter from WAPA’s Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. intended for the PSC at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, requesting that the PSC lower rates by 2.35 percent. The letter effectively made George Hodge’s request a non-issue.
After the hearing Hansen said that she had a positive outlook and believes that WAPA is responding to pressure from the court case – the reason, she said, why they decided to ask for a decrease in LEAC rates.
However, according to WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn, the request has nothing to do with the lawsuit. The 2.35 percent decrease was requested by Hodge because market prices are expected to decline in the coming months — it bases the percentage on a formula for the price of fuel oil as projected from October through December.
Willocks said that he wanted a full trial on Oct. 14 to discuss possible sanctions for the PSC’s delay and another trial in Oct. to address Hansen’s petition of appeal. Willocks gave Sprehn five business days to comply with the order and submit the requested documents for both cases.