Missouri Gas Energy plans rate hike which would cause customers to pay more out-of-pocket

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Gas Energy wants a $23 million rate hike. It says the increase is needed to help with pipeline and service line costs, lines that bring warmth to homes and business.

The energy company says if the Missouri Public Service Commission grants its request, residential customers will pay an extra $2.33 a month. Money which some customers believe is not just for pipelines, but to line the pockets of company executives.

“It's ridiculous and yet every time you turn around they're taking the bill up higher and higher, so when is it going to stop?” said meeting attendee, Michael Patterson.

For more than an hour the Missouri Public Service Commission listened to upset utility customers who oppose Missouri Gas Energy's rate increase.

Patterson says the utility company’s plan to raise the monthly fixed customer charge to $40.95 from November through March, and $26.88 from April through October, makes no sense. And to top things off, those fees are in addition to the customer’s actual natural gas usage fees.

“I'm on a fixed income with disability and there's limited amount of money to go around,” said Patterson.

Many of these customers say their heating bills are already through the roof and being charged a set fee, just to be connected to a gas line, is outrageous.

Rosemarie Woods, who attended the meeting, says she's on a fixed income and having a tough time keeping her bills in check.

“Everything in my house except for the lights are gas, so it is going to affect me. I'm going to have to sit down and really tighten my belt even more,” said Woods.

Missouri Gas Energy says the rate increase would help it recover part of its maintenance and operation costs.

The company says to offset some of the added expense they are offering programs to help customers increase their energy efficiency.

“We go inside we check windows and doors and we can look at the furnace filter to make sure you have a clean furnace filter,” said Jenny Gobble of Missouri Gas Energy.

John Coffman, with the Missouri Consumer Council ,says like the customers who showed up for the public hearing, consumer groups like his are urging the commission to think long and  hard about another rate hike.

“The consumer groups that I represent are opposed to this large fee of $40 a month, we think that amount should be collected on a usage basis,” said Coffman.

The commission has until august to make its decision on the rate hike request.

The Missouri Public Service Commission will hold three public meetings around the metro to get input from consumers.

Below are the times and locations of the public meeting and question/answer sessions:

February 24, 2014 – 12:00 p.m. at the Cohen Center, Kansas City Public Library – Plaza Branch located at 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo.

February 24, 2014 – 6:00 p.m. at the Gladstone Room, Gladstone Community Center located at 6901 N. Holmes Street, Gladstone, Mo.

February 26, 2014 – 1:00 p.m. at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center Auditorium located at 3700 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.

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