Missourians face major hikes to utility bills

Missourians are facing double-digit increases to their utility bills with the currently pending rate increases and proposed state legislation.

On January 12, the Missouri Public Service Commission approved a $3 increase to the Energy Efficiency Investment Charge on monthly Ameren Corp. bills. That increase went into effect on January 26.

This is in addition to an electric-rate increase that Ameren filed on July 1, seeking to increase annual electric revenues by approximately $206.4 million. According to the filing, residential customers would pay approximately $99 more per year if the rate request is approved. Ameren Missouri serves approximately 1.26 million electric customers in 60 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis.

The rate increase would add a $4.89 fixed fee to each bill, which is part of a residential rate increase of almost 10 percent. Hundreds of customers have submitted comments online or at public hearings opposing the increase.

Randy Meyr of St. Peters said that within the last five or six years, Ameren had an “extraordinary” increase in revenue from $2 to 3 billion. Another 10 percent increase wouldn’t help people like himself, who are lucky to even get a 3 percent increase in salary, Meyr said.

“This is too much too fast,” Meyr said.

Warren Wood, vice president of external affairs and communications at Ameren Missouri, told The St. Louis American that its total retail electric rates are the lowest of the investor-owned utilities in Missouri, 13 percent below the Midwest average.

“This regulatory rate review is about investments we made on behalf of our customers to deliver safe, clean and dependable energy,” Wood said. It has been almost two years since our last regulatory rate review and we have been working hard to continue to deliver a good value to our customers and keep costs low.”

The commission will continue to hold public and official hearings on the rate increase through March.

On January 23, a Missouri federal judge handed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a win, ruling that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act by making major upgrades to a coal-fired power plant without obtaining the required permits or limiting emissions.

The EPA sued Ameren Missouri in January 2011, alleging the company skirted the regulatory process and carried out unauthorized multimillion-dollar expansions at two units of its Rush Island plant. As a result, Ameren released excessive sulfur dioxide emissions into the air, which doctors have decried is a serious health hazard.

To add even further costs to residential consumers, the Missouri Senate on January 25 heard SB 190, a law written by Missouri utilities to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Ameren Missouri and other utilities told a panel of state senators on January 25 that the bill to recover costs would enable modernization and could promote economic development, according to the Associated Press.

The Consumer Council of Missouri were among those who spoke in opposition of the increase.

“The first thing SB190 does is it allows the utilities to tack on transmission line costs in their fuel adjustment clause,” the council said in a statement. “This would add fixed fees and volatility to a customer’s monthly bill. But perhaps most egregiously, SB190 carves out a large discount for one of our state’s largest utility consumers: Doe Run. With this, residential consumers are being asked to shoulder a larger share of any rate increase to subsidize Doe Run, the largest integrated lead producer in North America and the largest primary lead producer in the western world.”

If you are unable to attend a local public hearing and wish to make written comments or secure additional information on Ameren rate increases, contact the Office of the Public Counsel, P.O. Box 2230, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102, call 866-922-2959 or email opcservice@ded.mo.gov. Or contact the Missouri Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 360, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102, 1-800-392-4211, email pscinfo@psc.mo.gov.

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