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Breaking: Nicor’s record $293M request, Ameren’s $76M hike, North Shore Gas wants $10M

In one week, Nicor Gas asked for a record-high $293 million rate hike, and Ameren was granted a $76 million increase. Plus, North Shore Gas is pushing for a $10 million increase.

Here’s a rundown of these major developments concerning your gas bills and what CUB is doing about it:

Nicor Gas

The details: 

  • On Jan. 14, Nicor Gas requested a record $293 million increase in delivery rates. That includes a 10.35 percent Return on Equity, or profit rate for shareholders.  If Nicor was granted this request, it would represent an 8.37 percent increase in total bills for typical residential customers, or about $5.45 a month .
  • The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) will rule on the request in about 11 months, around December.
  • This is the third rate hike Nicor has requested in four years. The company initially asked for about $208 million in 2017 and about $230 million in 2018–both believed to be record requests at the time. The company has received a total of more than $261 million in rate hikes since 2017.

What CUB says: “Nicor’s massive rate-hike request—believed to be the largest proposed rate increase by a natural gas company in Illinois history—is a cold slap in the face for consumers struggling to pay their heating bills in the middle of an economic crisis brought on by a year-long pandemic,” CUB said in a statement. “This represents Nicor’s third attempt at a record-setting rate hike in the last four years, and it includes an excessive profit rate for shareholders of 10.35 percent. Enough is enough.”

Next steps: CUB will join with other consumer advocates in mounting a legal challenge against this rate-hike request.

Ameren Illinois

The details: 

  • On Jan. 13, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granted Ameren Illinois a $76.129 million natural gas rate hike, an increase of about 17.7 percent on the company’s delivery rates.  This comes after an 11- month rate case. The company originally requested a $102.031 million increase in February 2020.
  • The company received a 9.67 percent Return on Equity (ROE), or profit rate for shareholders. CUB argued that the gas utility, at best, should only get an ROE of about 9.3 percent. The consumer group partnered with Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) to present two witnesses and argue for the overall rate hike to be reduced by at least $36.2 million (about $21 million of that was attributable to CUB’s recommended ROE).

What CUB says: “While CUB and other consumer advocates helped to shrink Ameren Illinois’ rate hike by more than 25 percent, eliminating $26 million from the amount the company had sought, any increase in gas bills is still dreary news for consumers who are struggling through a pandemic in the middle of a winter heating season. The ruling inflates the profit rate for shareholders, which results in unreasonably high rates.”

Next steps: The rate hike is expected to take effect this month. CUB is reviewing the order for any opportunity to challenge it.

North Shore Gas

The details: 

  • In November, this gas utility, which covers 50 suburbs in northeastern Illinois, including Northbrook and Waukegan, asked the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for a rate hike of about $10 million.
  • Crain’s Chicago Business reports that if the company got the full rate hike customers in the northern suburbs would see their natural gas bills rise by $4.25 per month, or $51 a year. That would be an 8.5 percent increase in delivery rates.
  • The ICC will have 11 months to rule on the case, which means the new rates would go into effect in the winter of 2021-22.

What CUB says: “A rate hike is never good news, but it’s especially bad in the middle of winter, during a pandemic,” CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said. “CUB will review North Shore’s request, and we vow to challenge every penny the company can’t justify.”

Next steps: CUB plans to file testimony in the case in February.

If you want to support CUB’s legal team in these battles to lower your gas bills, you can donate here.