OK, Columbia. Here’s your chance to tell AmerenUE what you think of its natural gas service.
Representatives of the Missouri Public Service Commission are coming to town Wednesday to hear what you have to say about AmerenUE’s request for permission to raise the price you pay for natural gas in Columbia. If the request is granted, it would boost the company’s revenue by an estimated $11 million a year. AmerenUE says it would cost the typical natural gas customer about $6 a month, excluding taxes.
But natural gas rates won’t be the only subject on the table Wednesday. Public Service Commissioner Robert Clayton of Columbia urges anyone who has any kind of issue with AmerenUE to testify at the hearing.
“This is an easy, nonconfrontational opportunity for ratepayers served by AmerenUE to air any concerns they have about the company, including customer service issues, repairs, pricing, billing, collections or reliability of services,” Clayton said.
“I’m assuming the company, as usual, will have representatives at the hearing to respond to ratepayers,” Clayton added. “They will be there to answer questions, follow up on concerns or connect people with the appropriate person who can resolve their complaint.”
Clayton said PSC consumer services and technical staff will also be at the hearing to help consumers with any issues that arise. Commissioners can ask questions during the hearing but must refrain from responding to questions or discussing the rate case while it is pending.
The hearing starts at 6 p.m., but Clayton recommends residents come at 5:30 p.m. for an explanation of how the hearing will work.
AmerenUE said in a news release that the rate increase is justified to compensate for its recent investments in infrastructure. It also wants to adjust the calculation of the fees it collects to recover the cost of purchasing gas from suppliers.
AmerenUE is simultaneously seeking increases in rates for both natural gas and electricity. The PSC has scheduled a total of 15 public hearings across the state between Tuesday and Jan. 12. The Wednesday hearing in Columbia will coincide with another in Rolla; those two cities are the only ones in Missouri that only receive natural gas service from AmerenUE.
After the testimony is collected, the PSC staff will compile the input it has received from the hearings. In early March, the PSC will rehear the evidence, and AmerenUE will get a chance for rebuttal. The PSC has blocked off most of March to consider the cases, and it will make a decision in April or May, said Clayton, who intends to attend the Columbia meeting. Other commissioners will participate in a live Webcast of the hearing from either Jefferson City or Rolla.