Cleaner air may get more expensive for Potomac Edison customers if the Maryland Public Service Commission approves the utility's latest request for a surcharge to cover anti-pollution equipment.
The Hagerstown-based electric power company filed an application last week requesting a 1.41 percent surcharge on all customer bills to pay for compliance with the federal Clean Air Act of 1990, said Cyndi Shoop, a Potomac Edison spokeswoman.
If the PSC approves, the average customer who uses 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month would pay an additional 98 cents, raising his monthly bill from $69.47 to $70.45, she said.
"The percentage is the same for all customers in all classifications," said Ms. Shoop, adding that the surcharge should raise $4.9 million. "It's based on the total bill."
Potomac Edison, which supplies electric power to about 9,400 customers in Carroll County and 187,000 across Western Maryland, is hoping to begin collecting the surcharge May 5, she said.
However, unlike some previous Potomac Edison surcharges, the company will wait for final approval from the PSC before adding it to customer bills, Ms. Shoop said.
"We will not put it on the bill subject to refund," she said.
Ms. Shoop said that customers are still paying Potomac Edison's earlier clean air surcharge, approved by the PSC in 1992.
From June to December 1992, customers paid a 0.55 percent surcharge, which amounted to 34 cents per month on an average bill.
In December 1992, the PSC approved an increase of 1.27 percent, or 46 cents per month for average customers.
PSC officials incorporated the surcharge into Potomac Edison's basic rates during rate hearings in February 1993, Ms. Shoop said.
"Instead of having it appear as a separate surcharge, it became a regular part of the bill," she said.
"We are asking for [the surcharge] to be reinstated to pay for financing costs we've incurred since March of 1993.
"We haven't actually collected the cost of the project, just the financing costs associated with it."
Potomac Edison, one of three companies in the Allegheny Power System, is responsible for $180 million of the project, which will cost more than $500 million.
The anti-pollution work includes installing a scrubber system at the Harrison Power Station in West Virginia.
The scrubber, to be completed in mid-November, is designed to remove almost all the sulfur dioxide from the coal-burning plant's emissions, Ms. Shoop said.
"We will be able to continue to use regional coal, which is very important to the economy of our service area, while taking 98 percent [of the sulfur dioxide] out of the emissions," she said.