West Virginia consumer advocate leaving position

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s consumer advocate is leaving her job after seven years.

Jackie Roberts is moving from her position as director of the Public Service Commission’s Consumer Advocate Division to become a federal policy adviser for the PSC on Jan. 18. She will focus in her new post on PJM, which coordinates the power system in 13 states from Illinois to New Jersey and includes West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

A successor for Roberts has yet to be appointed.

According to the Consumer Advocate Division’s annual report, from 2016 to 2020, monthly utility rates have increased 18% increase for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power customers, while West Virginia American water customers have seen a 36% increase.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Well, if you’re the consumer advocate, why are our rates going up?’” Roberts said. “They’re going up because the utilities have a legal right to recover costs and investment that they expend or make to provide service. And, with the involvement of the consumer advocate, those rates go up less than they otherwise would go up without the consumer advocate.”

Roberts said she believes utilities should have done more to provide direct relief for their residential customers hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.