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Legal update: CUB testimony on record rate hikes urges $1.6 billion in reductions

By: Eric DeBellis
General Counsel

CUB’s legal team has been working nonstop the past month, filing expert testimony with state regulators to oppose a record six utility rate hikes, exposing the proposed increases as unjust and unreasonable and urging state regulators to cut them by a combined total of at least $1.6 billion.  

Below is a summary of what Regulatory Counsel Laura Loyd and I and a team of experts have done over the past month. Consider all these numbers “at least,” as we expect to support testimony from other consumer advocates, such as the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, to add to the numbers we propose below. 

(If you want to join the fight, visit the “Take Action” tab at CUBHelpCenter.com to speak out against the rate hikes, or just scroll to the bottom of this article.)

ComEd rate hike, ICC Docket # 23-0055
What ComEd wants: $1.5 billion increase over four years. (state record)

CUB expert testimony recommends reducing the rate hike by: $914.5 million 

CUB partners in this case: CUB, the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) group, Environmental Defense Fund, Community Development Corporation of Pembroke-Hopkins Park and People for Community Recovery partnered to commission expert testimony from Brubaker & Associates, Inc., a Missouri-based consulting firm that specializes in utility regulation, and the environmental sustainability consulting firm Energy Futures Group out of Vermont.

CUB’s news release: “It’s immediately apparent that the company is pushing for an excessive profit rate for its shareholders. ComEd has to maintain its system, but it never deserves a blank check. We urge state regulators to make deep cuts in ComEd’s rate-hike proposal.”  


Ameren (electric) rate hike, ICC Docket # 23-0082
What Ameren wants: $1.3 billion over four years.

CUB expert testimony recommends reducing the rate hike by: $492.3 million 

CUB partners in this case: CUB, the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) group, Federal Executive Agencies, Prairie Rivers Network and United Congregations of Metro East partnered to commission expert analysis from Brubaker & Associates.

CUB’s news release: “While a utility has to maintain its system, Ameren should not get a blank check. Our expert witnesses combed through Ameren’s rate-hike proposal and cut out the fat, including an excessive profit rate for shareholders. We are hoping other parties will be able to recommend further reductions.”  


Nicor rate hike, ICC Docket # 23-0066
What Nicor wants: $321 million

CUB expert testimony recommends reducing the rate hike by: $106.5 million. 

CUB partners in this case: CUB, the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) group and Community Development Corporation of Pembroke-Hopkins Park partnered to commission an expert analysis by Brubaker & Associates.

CUB’s news release: “Nicor’s rate-hike request is unjust and unreasonable—it will only be a hardship for customers, and it should be gutted. We know consumers are struggling—we hear from them every day. With climate change getting worse and customers having a harder and harder time paying their bills, we can’t afford to burn so much money on an expensive fossil fuel like gas that will soon be obsolete.” 


Peoples Gas rate hike, ICC Docket # 23-0069; North Shore Gas rate hike, ICC Docket #23-0068
What Peoples/North Shore Gas want: Peoples, $402 million a year (state record); North Shore, $18.5 million a year. 

CUB expert testimony recommends reducing the rate hike by: Peoples, $63 million; North Shore, $3.1 million. (Note: With testimony from the Attorney General’s Office, we expect our reduction in the Peoples Gas case to go over $100 million.) 

Partners in this case: CUB, the City of Chicago and People for Community Recovery partnered to commission expert analysis from Brubaker & Associates. 

CUB’s news release: “Peoples Gas customers have been suffering for years under rapidly rising bills, as the company rakes in record profits. This rate hike is unjust and unreasonable, and we urge state regulators to hold the utility accountable. The writing is on the wall: As climate change worsens and our bills get higher, we can’t afford to continue bailing out Peoples Gas and an outdated and expensive fossil fuel system.”


Ameren (gas) rate hike, ICC Docket # 23-0067
What Ameren wants: $160.4 million

CUB expert testimony recommends reducing the rate hike by: $59.2 million

CUB partners in this case: CUB, the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers (IIEC) group, Federal Executive Agencies, Prairie Rivers Network and United Congregations of Metro East partnered to commission expert analysis from Brubaker & Associates. 

CUB’s news release: “Ameren’s push to increase gas bills and inflate its profit rate is unjust and unreasonable, and we call on state regulators to slash this unnecessary rate hike. As climate change gets worse and customers struggle to afford their bills, we can’t keep bailing out an expensive, outdated fossil fuel like gas.”  


Thanks for all your support in these battles. The hard work is just beginning. Now we have to convince regulators to make deep cuts in these hikes. Here’s a general schedule for the rest of the year: 

  • June – July – Utilities file a rebuttal to CUB’s testimony. CUB responds to the rebuttal testimony and utilities get surrebuttal.
  • August – September– Parties file briefs and reply briefs, making their legal arguments to back up the testimony that was filed.)
  • October – Administrative law judges at the ICC issue proposed orders, recommending how the ICC should vote. 
  • November – Parties in the case file briefs, debating the proposed orders’ conclusions. Oral arguments, possible.
  • November/December – The 5-member ICC issues final rulings. The rate changes would take effect Jan. 1.   

If you want to help out the legal team, please take action below:






 

About the author: Eric DeBellis is CUB‘s General Counsel. He came to CUB in 2020 as Regulatory Counsel, before rising to the position of General Counsel. (He had a prevision stint at CUB as an Attorney-Policy Analyst in 2017.) Eric represents utility ratepayers in lawsuits, primarily before the Illinois Commerce Commission. His favorite part of the job is breaking down complex legal and policy issues in plain language to convey why they matter to consumers. In his free time, Eric is a proud dad and volunteers with local parks and schools.