August 27, 2008

Consumers Got the Commerce Commission’s Number on Rate Hikes


Contact: David Irwin, +1-312-458-3621, Gerardo Cardenas, +1-312- 458-3609, both of AARP

CHICAGO, Aug. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With Illinois utility companies Ameren and ComEd looking to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to approve millions in rate hikes and new surcharges -- consumers across the state are drawing a line in the sand. Thousands of people from across the state will come together for AARP's "tele-town halls," to have their voices heard and to let the ICC know just where they stand on the issue.

"Illinois consumers are getting stretched thin by rising prices coupled with a tight economy -- this is not the time for the ICC to approve utility rate increases," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. "AARP is working to ensure people have the facts and a voice on this issue -- we hope the ICC is listening."

AARP's tele-town halls, taking place this Wednesday and Thursday, will connect thousands of AARP members across the state for a phone conversation with AARP state leaders and utility issue experts. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn about the latest developments in the Ameren and ComEd rate hike cases, and be patched through to the ICC to voice their opposition to higher energy bills.

"Older people tend to spend a higher percentage of their income on utility bills and will feel the brunt of these proposed rate hikes," added Gallo. "The ICC has a job to do -- deny more utility rate increases -- and we are holding them to it."

ComEd's proposal is for a $360 million annual increase in electric and natural gas delivery rates. The utility company is also requesting ICC approval on a new surcharge called a "rider," to bill customers more money for new technological investments unrelated to basic electric service -- the surcharge is for an unspecified amount of money and can be increased with a rubber stamp-like process by the ICC.

Ameren, who has recently had their new surcharges rejected from their proposal by the ICC, is still seeking approval for electric and natural gas delivery rate hikes to the tune of $247 million annually.

A new, nationwide AARP survey released today found that more than half of those making below $50,000 a year said paying the utility bill is harder due to the economy, Nearly 75 percent of those questioned in the survey reported a rise in their home heating and cooling costs over the last year, and 79 percent said they expect the costs to go up again next year. From 2003 to 2008, average home heating oil costs have gone up nearly $1,500. The average natural gas cost has risen more than $800.


(c) 2008 U.S. Newswire. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.