Thursday, March 28, 2013

Citizens Action Coalition requests Pence's help

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM

OPEN LETTER TO GOV. MIKE PENCE: VETO SB560

The Honorable Mike Pence, Governor of the State of Indiana:

Senate Bill 560 (Utility Transmission) will likely be headed to your desk in the near future. As a representative of over 40,000 residential ratepayers in our great State, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana respectfully requests that you protect Hoosier ratepayers with the same vigor with which you are fighting to protect Hoosier taxpayers. We pray that you use the authority granted to your office in Article 5, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution to veto SB560.

We know that you are aware of the significant increases in the cost of energy with which Hoosier ratepayers are currently struggling. In your Roadmap for Indiana, you correctly state: "Unfortunately, Indiana's status as a low-cost energy state is in danger of changing." Indiana now ranks 24th in the country for industrial electric rates, and the average monthly electric bill for residential households in Indiana similarly ranks as the 24th highest in our nation. SB560 will exacerbate the very problem that you identify, making it easier for the monopoly utilities to raise the monthly bills of captive Hoosier consumers and jeopardizing our slipping status as a low-cost energy state.

In a recent op-ed published in the Indianapolis Star, you express your desire for "... a budget that let[s] hardworking Hoosiers keep more of what they earn." SB560 will achieve the exact opposite of your objective by sending more of Hoosiers' earnings to the coffers of the monopoly utilities through significant increases in monthly utility bills. Meanwhile, utilities are realizing significant (and, in some cases, record) earnings, whereas Hoosier households are struggling with stagnant and diminishing wages.

We appreciate the intent of the Indiana General Assembly in moving SB560. We agree that Indiana faces challenges in our need to improve, modernize, and repair our utility infrastructure. We also agree that we must make investments in an effort to create jobs and make Indiana an attractive place to start a business and raise a family. However, SB560 will leave these decisions in the hands of an industry notorious for being irresponsible with capital as they strive to increase earnings for shareholders, frequently at the expense of their customers and the public interest.

We were encouraged with the plan you articulated in your Roadmap for Indiana to "[w]ork with stakeholders to develop strategies for effectively addressing our need to upgrade our electricity generation and transmission infrastructure." SB560 ignores this stated desire and effectively closes the door on the discussion by leaving the future of Indiana's energy policy squarely in the control of the monopoly utilities.

SB560 is contrary to all of your stated campaign and gubernatorial objectives. We ask that you reflect on the impact that SB560 will have on hardworking Hoosiers. We request you consider the tremendous consequences that this legislation will have on the quality of life for the most vulnerable among us, particularly the elderly population, who survive on fixed incomes and are forced to make tough choices on a daily basis between food, energy, and health care. Please protect Hoosier ratepayers, protect the public interest, and protect your legacy by vetoing SB560.

Respectfully,

Kerwin Olson

Executive Director

Citizens Action Coalition

***** Editor's Note:

Not that the legislative lingo will be too enlightening as to the real-world effects of this bill, but for what it's worth, here is the most recent Digest OF SB 560 from the Indiana General Assembly.


Utility transmission. Provides for the establishment by counties of infrastructure development zones in which natural gas, broadband and advanced services, and water infrastructure is exempt from property taxation. Allows a customer of an electricity supplier that is: (1) a public utility; and (2) under the jurisdiction of the utility regulatory commission (commission) for the approval of rates and charges; to petition the commission for a temporary discount to the demand component of the customer's rates and charges established in the electricity supplier's applicable standard tariff for service to a single Indiana facility of the customer. Requires: (1) preapproval by the economic development corporation (IEDC) of the customer's requested temporary discount amount; and (2) that an electricity supplier defer the cost of a discount for subsequent recovery in its next general retail electric rate case. Requires the utility consumer counselor (counselor) to investigate a utility's petition for a transmission, distribution, and storage system improvement charge (TDSIC) and report its activities to the commission. Authorizes the counselor to request additional funding from the budget agency. Allows a utility to designate a test period for the commission to use in determining an increase in the utility's rates and charges. Provides that a utility may impose a temporary increase in rates and charges while its rate case is pending before the commission. Requires a utility to provide a refund, with interest, to customers if the temporary rates and charges exceed the rates and charges approved by the commission. Authorizes a utility that provides electric or gas service to petition the commission to recover TDSIC costs. Requires the utility to petition the commission for approval of a seven year plan for eligible transmission, distribution, and storage improvements. Requires the Indiana department of transportation to develop a program to coordinate the use of public rights-of-way with utilities when the department undertakes an infrastructure improvement project.

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