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Originally published Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 6:56 AM

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W.Va. Legislature Oks limited utility bonds

West Virginia lawmakers have approved the sale of bonds so utilities can recovery high energy costs.

The Associated Press

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. —

West Virginia lawmakers have approved the sale of bonds so utilities can recovery high energy costs.

But the bill sent to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday would grant that bond-seeking ability only for this year.

The legislation would help Appalachian Power. The American Electric Power Co. subsidiary has around 500,000 customers in West Virginia. It says it's facing $350 million in costs from elevated coal prices.

The electric utility believes bonds would provide the up-front funds needs to address those costs while avoiding steep rate hikes.

Alternatives include increasing rates by between 30 and 40 percent. Company officials also say current rates should help repay any bonds.

Appalachian Power would apply to the Public Service Commission for permission to issue bonds. The commission regulates utilities and their rate requests.

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