Two groups fight against proposed rate increase

By WEEK Reporter

March 26, 2013 Updated Mar 26, 2013 at 6:45 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Members of AARP and the Citizens Utility Board gathered Tuesday to encourage the Illinois legislature to vote against proposed natural gas rate hikes.

Ameren-Illinois, along with Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas are lobbying the general assembly to pass a bill that would allow for automatic rate hikes in the price of natural gas for the next 10 years.

Current law requires the company to file for a rate hike and prove that they need the increase.

"This legislation would essentially leap frog that process and give the utilities automatic yearly rate hikes totaling up to $414 million. In effect this legislation would allow Ameren to run regulatory red lights," said Director of Communications for the Citizens Utility Board, Jim Chilsen.

"I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. There have been a lot of inaccurate figures thrown around. This is actually going to cost the typical gas customer $3.70 a year," said Ameren Spokesperson, Stacey Shangraw.

The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Peoria Senator Dave Koehler.

Last week, the Illinois House approved companion legislation backed by utility companies which allows the upgrade of Illinois' electric grid.

AARP said that bill amounts to a retroactive rate hike for Ameren and ComEd.