In spite of the novel Coronavirus putting our lives on hold, CUB’s legal team is continuing the fight for utility customer rights and lower rates. General Counsel Julie Soderna and new Senior Attorney Eric DeBellis are currently working on about 15 cases. Here are a few highlights.
In March, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) issued a moratorium on disconnections and waiver of late fees until May 1, 2020, or, until the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, if it goes beyond May 1. The ICC action also requires utilities to implement temporary flexible credit and payment procedures.
CUB’s legal team, in partnership with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, the City of Chicago, and the social justice advocacy group COFI, is working to bolster some of the ICC’s COVID-19 consumer protections. We’re aiming to extend the freeze on disconnections and late fees for 60 days beyond the state of emergency expiration. We’re also pushing for additional measures to be in place for 6 months after the expiration of the state of emergency, such as a freeze on deposits, other fees and reporting to credit agencies, and an extension of deferred payment arrangement lengths. (Even after the state of emergency ends, we know consumers will still feel the impact of this public health and financial crisis.) We want utilities to continue working on more flexible payment plans, and we’re also pushing for more utility outreach about those new payment plans and low-income assistance programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
Help the legal team fight for consumer protections in this case: Sign CUB’s petition.
Julie and Eric are also working on multiple rate cases.
- Ameren Illinois Gas
Ameren filed for a $102.031 million natural gas rate increase before the ICC. Wrapped into that increase is Ameren’s ask for a 10.5 percent profit rate for its shareholders—up from its current Return on Equity of 9.87 percent.
A rate hike is always bad for consumers, but especially amid the record-setting unemployment caused by the Coronavirus. The ICC is considering this rate-hike proposal over an 11-month case, meaning any increase would hit in the middle of next winter, while we’re still dealing with the economic aftermath of the public health emergency. As they alway do, CUB’s legal team will fight every penny the company can’t justify.
- Ameren Electric
Ameren Gas may be requesting higher rates to pad its investors’ pockets, but Ameren Electric is asking for a $45 million rate decrease. We’re glad they’re asking for a decrease, but we’ll investigate to determine if the cut should be more substantial.
ComEd is also asking for a $11.5 million rate decrease, its third rate decrease in a row and fifth in 10 years. This decrease would make the average total monthly residential bill $82 beginning in January of next year, according to ComEd.
This is good news for ComEd customers. But just like with Ameren, our legal team will be pushing for an even bigger rate cut.
Odds and Ends
CUB’s legal team is also working on multiple alternative supplier citation cases—like this—and Eric is working on a docket before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Transmission owners want to recategorize some assets as confidential, which would shield them from review, a limitation of transparency we don’t like.