I live in a development where my private out-of-state water provider did the same thing. It's a tactic and it usually works.
Water company applies to the State Commission for a huge increase. Commission holds "public" hearings, but in Raleigh so very few will show up to protest the increase. Company settles for a "reduced" rate of increase. Commission then claims to have "protected" the customers from the hugh increase. Water company gets the increase they actually wanted. Commission members get political credits (which in politics these days is like actual cash in the bank) that they use to advance themselves to the next political level. Both sides win.
Of course the consumer always loses, but neither party ever gave a "whatever" about the consumer in the first place.
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