Office Recommends Less Money For Citizens

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The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is recommending a smaller hike than requested by a central Indiana utility. Citizens Energy Group is seeking $56.7 for sewage infrastructure improvements. The state office is recommending $46.5 million. August 23, 2013

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) filed testimony today on Citizens Energy Group's request for a sewer rate increase, recommending approval of most, but not all, of the utility's proposal.

In its pending case before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Citizens is seeking approximately $56.7 million in new annual operating revenues for its wastewater utility. The OUCC, which represents consumer interests in IURC cases, is recommending an increase of about $46.5 million.

The utility's request would raise its annual revenues for sewage disposal service by about 31.7 percent in two phases, with the first and largest phase to be implemented when the IURC issues a final order in early 2014. Under the OUCC’s recommendations, the sewer utility’s revenues would rise by approximately 25 percent, also in two phases.

The majority of new revenues requested in this case would pay for infrastructure improvements, many of which are required under a federal consent decree. These projects include the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector, a permanent 90 million gallon-per-day pump station for the tunnel, collection system improvements, the utility’s ongoing septic tank elimination program, and wastewater treatment plant expansions.

Based on its six-month review of the utility’s evidence, the OUCC agrees these projects are necessary and that the proposed cost recovery is appropriate. However, the OUCC’s testimony and exhibits include reductions to a number of line items for the sewer utility’s operating and maintenance costs, including bad debt expenses, legal fees, and labor costs, as well as reductions in certain executive and employee incentive programs.

Doing business as CWA Authority, Inc., Citizens Energy Group provides sewage disposal service to approximately 220,000 customers in Marion County and surrounding counties. Current sewer rates were approved by the City-County Council in 2009, including incremental rate increases that took effect in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Under the agreement to transfer the sewer utility’s assets to Citizens, which received IURC approval in 2011, the IURC now has sole jurisdiction over the wastewater utility’s rates and charges.

The utility’s rebuttal testimony is due September 13, 2013 with an IURC evidentiary hearing scheduled to start on October 9, 2013.

Citizens Energy Group is seeking a 14.7 percent increase in its water utility’s rates in a separately pending case. The OUCC has recommended limiting the water rate increase to about 3 percent. All hearings in the water rate case have concluded, with written closing arguments due from the formal parties in September and November.

For more information on both cases, please visit the OUCC’s website at www.in.gov/oucc/2738.htm.

(IURC Cause No. 44305)

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC’s mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving.

Visit us at www.IN.gov/OUCC, www.twitter.com/IndianaOUCC, or www.facebook.com/IndianaOUCC.

Source: The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor