Navajo tribal utility officials increase electric rates

Fort Defiance, Arizona (AP) 9-07

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has increased electric rates for its customers and expanded an assistance program for senior citizens.

The seven-member NTUA management board voted unanimously to increase overall rates by 23.7 percent. The hike varies by customer class.

“We hope that customers will understand that this electric rate increase helps us with the day-to-day cost of providing electric utility service,” said interim NTUA general manager Kenneth Craig. “As time moves on, we will pledge to demonstrate to our valued customers how this increase is being applied locally and regionally.”

The average residential customer’s bill will increase by nearly 19 percent, from about $36 a month to $42.75 per month. October bills will reflect the new rate.

Commercial customers will see a 27.1 percent increase, irrigation customers a 26.7 increase, and oil and gas customers a 24.5 percent increase.

The low-income Senior Citizen/Life Support discount program rates will not increase. The board voted to waive all service charges for those who qualify and change the 7 percent discount to 10 percent.

The board also accepted a business plan that prevents another electric rate increase for at least five years, Craig said.

Since the last rate increase in 1992, the utility’s customer base has grown 50 percent and the cost of maintaining and operating lines has more than doubled, NTUA officials have said.

The utility, which serves about 38,000 customers on the 25,000 square-mile reservation, will use the added revenue to upgrade existing substations that no longer meet industry standards and expand its services.

The board solicited comments from seven of the communities it serves before voting on the increase. The majority of comments were about frequent, extended electrical outages and customer service.

“As an enterprise of the Navajo Nation, it is our mission to provide safe and reliable utility services. That certainly includes customer service,” Craig said. “We always have room for improvement.”