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Citizens gets state OK for steep wastewater rate hike

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State regulators on Wednesday approved a rate hike that will increase monthly wastewater bills by about 26 percent, or close to $14 on average, for Citizens Energy Group customers.

In all, Citizens received approval to generate about $50.6 million in new annual revenue.

The rate increases will come in two phases.

Effective immediately, Citizens will increase its wastewater revenue by 21.08 percent, or $38.25 million. Revenue will increase another 5.61 percent in October.

Rates will increase by different amounts based on the types of customers. Residential, commercial or industrial all pay different rates.

The first phase will increase rates “less than $10” per month for average residential customers starting in May, Citizens spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said. Then bills will increase “less than $4” on average in October for residential customers, she said.

“We are concerned about the impact of rate increases and have programs in place to help those in need,” Citizens said in a prepared statement issued after the ruling by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Citizens sought the rate increase in response to a 2006 order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued to the city of Indianapolis, who owned the wastewater utility at the time.

“Underinvestment over the past 100 years has resulted in an antiquated sewer system that is discharging four billion gallons of raw sewage per year into waterways,” Citizens said. “The wastewater rate increase will allow Citizens to continue our program to virtually eliminate sewer overflows by the year 2025.  It will also allow us to continue eliminating failing septic tanks that are endangering human health and the environment across Marion County.”

In a separate statement, the Indiana Office Utility Consumer Counselor said it understood the need for rate increases. The utility’s plans to address sewage overflows and federal mandates seemed to be a “reasonable approach.”

“We realize rate increases are never popular,” the office said. “However, today’s order will allow the sewer utility to complete a number of major infrastructure projects that are vital to public health.”

Part of the IURC’s order on Wednesday disallowed another $1.1 million Citizens sought in reimbursements.

Regulators denied the piece of funding because it related to executive compensation, which has been an ongoing concern.

The IURC issued a similar admonishment to Citizens in March when commissioners approved a 9-percent rate hike for its water utility.

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  • Yes, Ollie...
    ...I believe they do think that you're stupid. It was brilliant, really, from a purely political perspective. Transfer the utility to a "charitable public trust", whatever that is, and get free cash in exchange to do a bunch of street resurfacings. Then Citizens can raise rates, and the public angst will be directed at them, but who cares, because the IURC will approve whatever rate increases they need to pay back the $400M they gave the Ballard administration as well as pay for the federally pushed sewer improvements, and make sure Carey Lykins and other execs maintain their 7-figure annual compensation packages. Citizens needn't care about public backlash because they are unelected and unaccountable to the public. They'll get their money. The Ballard administration got their money. (It's reminiscent of the Fed's playbook where they just print money to buy mortgages so that banks can put their more money into more profitable investment schemes than boring old mortgages.) And technically, no tax increase. Brilliant!
  • WOW
    This increase is huge $14 per month on our poor citizens. Just pay it WOW
  • Storm sewers as well
    They will have more problems with the storm sewers soon as well. people like me do not know what to do with all the gravel left behind from the repaired potholes, and the city has not swept the streets in 11 years, so where do you think the gravel around my house gets swept? yep !!!
  • "Tax Increase"
    The problem with sewer overflow has been a problem for a long time. Goldsmith and Peterson both developed huge capital improvement projects to help the problem. Now the City sells the utility to CEG to let them deal with the problem. The City gets big revenue in the sale but passes the infrastructure problems on to CEG. The City spends big money with the Pacers, Colts and maybe the Indy Eleven but cannot get more police or fix the sewer problems. Now CEG gets to raise their rates. Is this not just a 'tax increase" in sheep clothing? Do they think we are all stupid???
  • Indy is a Banana Republic
    Come on Ballard where is the savings???? Legalized extortion! PILOT -PAYMENT IN LIEU OF TAXES.... What kind of raises do these jerks think the average citizen gets? Disclose the Colts and Pacer Suites and other Meals and Entertainment the OVERPAID EXECUTIVES stiff the ratepayors on. INDY=Banana Republic

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