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Lawsuit challenges lower electric rates for industries that add jobs

The state Public Service Commission says it will fight a lawsuit against its recent decision to let a utility charge lower rates to large industries that expand and create jobs.

The Citizens Utility Board sued the PSC Tuesday, saying small businesses and residents would pay more to cover the discounts that the large industries get from Wisconsin Power and Light.

Also, the group said the commission did not conduct its normal review process before approving the measure.

Lori Saak of the PSC said the panel stands behind its decisio, and will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Power and Light spokesman Scott Reigstad said no companies have signed up yet for the new discount program, which took effect July 1.

The utility requested the discounts after the recession created a large decrease in electric sales by struggling industries.

Reigstad says Power and Light believes the program will create jobs and help everyone in the long run.

Todd Stuart of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group also defended the new discounts. He said utilities have had to raise their rates to help make up for the reduction of industrial electric sales.

Offering discounts to growing companies will take away the pressure to raise those rates, Stuart says.