The natural gas industry is the latest utility to ask legislators for a favor. Ameren, People’s Gas and North Shore Gas want state lawmakers to approve a rate hike. Consumer groups say it’s a disturbing trend.
Legislators came to the aide of Commonwealth Edison and Ameren when they asked to hike electric rates.
Rather than go through the usual process for approving higher prices, the utilities went to straight to legislators.
They say they needed a guarantee so they can modernize the power grid.
Now, natural gas companies – including Ameren’s natural gas division – are asking for the same treatment, to pay for gas pipeline upgrades.
Leigh Morris is a spokesman for Ameren.
MORRIS: “If we don’t get this particular legislation, then it will simply take longer to achieve these improvements. And the longer we wait, the longer we put it off, the more expensive it will become.”
He says it’ll cost the average Ameren customer an extra $3.70 … the first year. By year six, they’ll pay another $22. In a decade, peg another $37 onto an average heating bill.
The Citizens’ Utility Board’s Anna Warnock says no one will be exempt.
WARNOCK: “Every year for the next ten years customers will have to pay out of their pocket this increase. And it’s going to hurt everybody. Residential customers, businesses, even the customers that opted to have a different gas company to provide their services – they will still be hurt. Because the increases, the fees, will be on the delivery charge of the bill.”
She says companies should make a profit. But she says the natural gas companies are trying to bypass regulators, so they can get guaranteed, bigger profits – at consumers’ expense.
– Amanda Vinicky