Kentucky Power changing line-clearing policy

The state Public Service Commission made public Friday the results of an investigation into Kentucky Power's practice of clearing brush around its power lines. The commission found the company, which had the largest outage in its history this past winter, had wrongly been giving more attention to clearing the power lines closest to its electricity substations.

Because of that practice, customers living farther away from substations were more likely to have outages, the PSC said in a news release.

The PSC told Kentucky Power that all customers should receive the same level of service, and the utility has agreed to adopt a regular cycle of clearing vegetation from all lines, according to the statement.

Kentucky Power provides electricity to about 176,000 customers in its 20-county service area. More than 75,000 of the utility's customers lost power in mid-December after a snowstorm blanketed portions of Eastern Kentucky with as much as two feet of snow. The PSC reported the majority of the outages were caused when trees and limbs fell on power lines.

The process of restoring power took nearly two weeks, prompting the PSC to investigate the following month.

The PSC statement said that Kentucky Power agreed to implement the new vegetation clearing practice as part of a settlement that allowed the utility to raise rates. That settlement, which was approved by the PSC on June 28, allowed a rate increase of 12.5 percent. That was about half the amount initially sought by Kentucky Power, which is a subsidiary of American Electric Power. The average residential customer's bill rose 17 percent to $134 a month.

The commission said it plans to inspect Kentucky Power's work on the new vegetation plan with both field inspections and by reviewing the utility's reliability data.