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Customers frustrated about proposed I&M rate hike

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Frustrations are fueled for Indiana Michigan Power customers as the company requests a nearly 20% increase in its fixed rate come 2018.

Indiana’s Office of Utility Consumer Counselor held a public hearing Monday to give I&M customers the chance to voice their concerns about the proposed rate hike.

“This rate hike is on the backs of lower income people. They’re the ones that are going to be hurt the most,” said Pamela Claeys, who lives in South Bend.

“It’s a killer. I’m retired. I’m on social security now. You possibly get a 1 to 2% a year increase if you’re lucky. To say that they want to implement approximately a 20% increase over a two year period or a year and a half period is absurd,” said Bruce Burkart, who lives in Clay Township.

Indiana Michigan Power is asking for a $263.2 million, or nearly 20%, increase in operating revenues over the next two years.

“We determine what’s needed to run the business and provide safe and reliable electricity and then we compare that to what we would have absent a rate review…a lot of it we're dealing with aging infrastructure. Most of our equipment we have out there are many, many decades old,” said President and COO of I&M, Toby Thomas.

“I was in business for most of my career. That said if you have capital expenditure needs, you budget for them, you don’t just dump them on the poor consumer all at once,” said Burkart.

Those consumers would be paying $18 a month—fixed rate—as opposed to the current $7.30.

That represents a nearly 250% increase.

“The extra $10 that is proposed is out of reach for many of our neighbors who budget down to the last nickel every month,” said Casey Mullaney, who belongs to the Catholic Workers Community.

Others said I&M doesn’t invest enough in renewable energy, which they say would help lower consumers’ costs.

“We cannot reward I&M for sticking its head in the sand and refusing to innovate,” said customer Carmella Vizza.

The OUCC, which represents the consumers in this case, will now collect the comments shared at Monday’s meeting along with any submitted online and prepare a final position due to the IURC on November 7.

Customers can add comments up until November 2 online.

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