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Arkansas utilities told to submit plans for passing on tax savings to customers

LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas commission regulating utility rates has ordered the state's eight investor-owned utilities to explain how they plan to pass tax savings on to their customers.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission told the utilities Thursday that they have 30 days to file their plans, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Lawmakers in December passed the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked the commission in January to pass on benefits of the federal corporate tax rate cut to Arkansas ratepayers "as expeditiously as possible."

The utilities include Entergy Arkansas, CenterPoint Energy, Black Hills Energy Arkansas, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., Southwestern Electric Power Co., Empire District Electric and Liberty Utilities.

Entergy Arkansas is the state's largest electric utility with about 700,000 customers. The utility in March said that it would reduce customer billing by up to $466 million, which began with April's bills. The average monthly reduction in bill was about 18.4 percent.

The commission directed the other utilities to follow Entergy's template when making their own filings, and to complete refunding the amount by Dec. 31, 2019.

"The order specifically recognizes our bill-credit plan as the model approach for all utilities," said Entergy spokesperson Kerri Case.

CenterPoint Energy argued for a three-year period to complete the refund, but the commission disagreed.

"While (CenterPoint) may be required to seek other forms of financing resulting higher financing costs, the expeditious refund to ratepayers outweighs any reasons argued by (CenterPoint) for a longer time period," the commission stated.

The natural-gas utility is reviewing the commission's order and will act accordingly, said spokesman Alejandra Diaz.

The commission could take another month to review each filing after utilities submit their plans.

State Desk on 07/28/2018

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