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Centre Co. animal care center facing $3,000 electric bill, up 500 percent

Reported By: Gary Sinderson
Written By: Marc Stempka

PORT MATILDA, Pa. -- Leaders with a Centre County animal care center are trying to figure out how to pay a skyrocketing electric bill after this winter's colder than normal temperatures, after they got a jolt from seeing a 500 percent increase in their bill.

Centre Wildlife Care near State College is an animal rescue shelter that takes in all kinds of animals in need of care, but now, their director says the center may need to take out a loan to pay a more than $3,000 electric bill.

Robin Graboski operates the shelter and had a variable rate contract with her electric provider. Like so many residents across Pennsylvania, many with variable rate contracts saw skyrocketing electric bills through the winter months because of the cold weather.

The shelter operates on donations and usually has an electric bill of a few hundred dollars a month, Graboski said. The shelter's electric is supplied through Blue Point Energy, and is delivered through West Penn Power, a subsidiary of First Energy.

"But when we got our electric bill they increased the price 544 percent," she said. "Instead of $400 or $500, it was $2,000 and I called and said 'Is there anything we can do?'"

A company representative suggested reading the center's electric meter and looking into a possible adjustment, Graboski said.

"Well, then it turned out to be $3,300 because we used more electric than we anticipated," Graboski said.

The $3,316 bill came despite using a wood burner for much of the facility's heat, Graboski said. The shelter also had to add heat to a rehabilitation space through heat lamps and heating pads for some animals.

Graboski said she originally had a fixed rate electric plan, but changed to the variable rate plan.

"The representative that I talked to said if it increases, call us, talk to me personally, [and] he gave me his name [and] his extension number, said call me personally, [and] I will make sure that we adjust it for you," Graboski said. "So I called him and he immediately transferred me to somebody else and they said there's nothing we can do, [that] the price of electric is more expensive."

Last week, a state House legislative committee held a hearing on the electric bill complaints from the winter. The Public Utility Commission, that oversees electric company rates, has received close to 4,800 consumer complaints related to the high energy bills.

The PUC and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office are continuing to investigate the consumer complaints. Additionally, customers aren't immediately able to switch energy providers because most companies require a one-billing cycle notice before a switch.

Graboski said the center's $3,300 bill is due next month and they may need to borrow money to make the payment.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times