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Consumer Advocates & Businesses Urge Governor To Veto Utility Bill



March 28, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Citizens Action Coalition is urging a veto from Gov. Pence for Senate Bill 560 (SB 560). Coalition executive director Kerwin Olson explained that if the bill becomes law, natural gas companies would avoid the scrutiny of a full-blown rate case by using what is known as a "tracker," which allows the utilities to more frequently add charges to utility bills to pay for infrastructure improvements.

"This bill would essentially allow the utility companies to raise rates once every six months," he said, "for transmission projects, distribution projects, storage projects - projects that are involved in the day-to-day operations of a utility company providing reliable service to the public."

Backers of the bill noted that the trackers must be pre-approved by utility regulators.

Olson warned that Senate Bill 560 would negatively affect hardworking Hoosiers - especially those on fixed incomes.

The House Utilities Committee chairman and bill sponsor, Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), said tracker protections for consumers were built into the bill, by "limiting those rate increases at 2 percent, requiring IURC pre-approval, and requiring the utility that uses a tracker to go in for a full rate case within seven years."

Koch added that the trackers would allow utilities to better align their revenue and expenses.

The Indiana Propane Gas Association opposed the bill, saying it unfairly targets consumers and gives the entrenched industries an advantage. The association's executive director, Scot Imus, said it allows natural gas utilities to avoid spending their own profits to expand.

"If they were using their own money - and not the checkbooks of other ratepayers - they would probably be hard-pressed to tackle some of these expansion efforts," he said.

The bill has passed both houses, but with differences. If the senate agrees with the changes, it will go on to the governor. If not, it will first go to a conference committee.

The legislation is available at www.in.gov.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN