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Lt. Governor Simon: Say “No” to Rate Hikes 

Simon, AARP urge lawmakers to support SB1652 veto

CARBONDALE – September 13, 2011. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined AARP volunteers at a senior center today to urge the Illinois General Assembly to protect consumers from huge utility rate hikes.

Simon said lawmakers should side with consumers by supporting Governor Quinn’s recent veto of Senate Bill 1652, which would have allowed Ameren and ComEd to impose automatic, double digit rate hikes each year for the next decade, while eroding consumer protections.

“At a time when many Illinoisans are living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to find employment, utility companies are looking to weaken accountability and guarantee increases in their profits,” Simon said. “I will not support any proposal that sticks consumers with the tab for automatic utility rate hikes.”

Last spring, ComEd and Ameren pushed SB1652 through the Illinois General Assembly to raise electricity rates by more than $2.4 billion and guarantee shareholder profits of more than 10 percent. If the bill becomes law, Ameren customers across Southern Illinois would see the delivery portion of their bills automatically increase an average of 7 percent annually.

Quinn vetoed the bill Monday, with the support of the state’s leading consumer advocates, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Citizens Utility Board, Citizen Action/Illinois, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and AARP, which represents 1.7 million Illinois seniors.

“Illinois consumers are in a very tight spot, facing rising prices for fuel, food, and medicines in an unrelenting recession,” said Linda Clutts, president of the Carbondale AARP chapter. “We just cannot afford to pay a higher utility bill. It has to stop.”

The stated purpose of SB1652 is to implement Smart Grid technology that could eventually help consumers cut their utility usage and benefit the environment; however legislation is not required for the companies to move ahead with Smart Grid investments. Simon credited lawmakers who want to use energy more wisely, but said she disagrees on how to get that done.

She pointed to an alternative Illinois Commerce Commission proposal supported by Governor Quinn, known as House Amendment 3 to House Bill 14. Among its pro-consumer regulatory reforms, it would link rate hikes to modernization and performance.

But the first step, she said, is to ensure the Governor’s veto of SB1652 is upheld, despite heavy lobbying by the utility companies. Simon encouraged Illinois residents to visit and make their voices heard.