AmerenUE proposes to lower gas bills

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | 7:07 p.m. CDT; updated 10:43 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 18, 2009

COLUMBIA — The state regulatory body that sets AmerenUE's utility rates is set to review a gas rate proposal Thursday that could lower the average monthly bills of about 39,000 Columbia and Boone County customers by about $6 a month. Monthly bills would still be about $10 higher than they were last winter.

On Friday, the utility submitted a request with the Missouri Public Service Commission for a rate reduction of the price customers pay for natural gas, AmerenUE spokesman Mike Cleary said.

AmerenUE is asking for rates to be lowered from $1.10 per 100 cubic feet of gas, which is the measurement to calculate how much gas customers use, to 99.5 cents. The rate covers about two-thirds of customers' monthly bills.

During last November through March, AmerenUE gas customers paid an average of about $131 for monthly bills, not including taxes. If the commission approves AmerenUE's requested rate reduction, bills for the same period this winter would average about $141 per month, Cleary said.

If the commission decides on a new rate, the change will take effect Nov. 1 and customers' bills will be prorated to that date.

The commission requires the utility company to submit an annual adjustment proposal to take effect Nov. 1 that reflects changing wholesale prices of natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wholesale natural gas prices have dropped since a peak on July 3.

Kerry Cordray, spokesman of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Energy Center said the wholesale price of natural gas has dropped primarily because demand has declined.

"The price of natural gas fluctuates with supply and demand," Cleary said. "Natural gas prices tend to follow oil prices, and these have dropped significantly."

Kevin Kelly, public information administrator for the Public Service Commission, said Missouri Gas Energy, another natural gas provider for Missouri residents, has also filed for a Nov. 1 rate reduction. The staff has submitted to the commission recommendations of approval for both rate reductions.

Lewis Mills, the Missouri public counsel who represents the interests of utility customers, said he doubts AmerenUE's rate reduction proposal will be challenged by the commission.

Cleary agrees with Mills. "It's not a controversial issue," he said.

Cleary said even though the average customer is expected to save about $6 per month that price could change according to how much gas customers use during the winter.

AmerenUE electric customers in Columbia and Boone County would not be affected.

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