Vectren customers gave their input Monday night in front of the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) at a public hearing on Vectren's gas rate increase request.
The sole purpose of the hearing was for public comment and customers weighed in both in-person and on the phone, all very much against the proposed increase.
"They are already abusing their power because they are a monopoly," said Vectren customer Scott Winstead.
Winstead said the pandemic has taken a toll on many, and raising rates would only make things worse.
"We're going through COVID, most of the customers are affected by it," he said. "This is a bad time to raise rates because a lot of people are unemployed and they're on limited budgets because of it."
It's the first base gas rate request Vectren has filed in 14 years and it's a big one.
"This base rate review, Vectren's gas rate is really the equivalent of going to a doctor and getting a full physical exam as opposed to where you have other cases that look just specifically at the fuel costs or other very specific things that are more limited in scope," OUCC Spokesman Anthony Swinger said.
Currently, each bill includes two fixed charges for every customer, but the proposed increase would replace both with a $35 monthly customer service charge, bringing it more than $10 higher than what it is now.
This would ultimately lead to a $29.6 million annual increase.
Some Vectren customers think that's too high.
"Reduce the rate hike from the requested 30%," said Jean Webb, who spoke in-person at the hearing. "A 30% rate increase is excessive."
Vectren filed testimony for the case record in October 2020 after completing their 7-year natural gas pipeline modernization plan.
The utility says the rate increase will help to cover higher operating and maintenance costs, but those at the hearing said the rates are high enough.
"They have no competition in our area," Winstead said. "They need to not be allowed to raise it any higher."
The OUCC is accepting written comments from Vectren customers until February 12. That input will be included in the case record to help the commission make a final decision.
You can submit comments through the OUCC website, by email at uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov, or by mail at:
Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
All comments should specify the case as clearly as possible by including the utility's name, the issue in question (i.e. gas rate increase), the IURC cause number (if possible). It is also important that you include your full name, mailing address, email address and your daytime telephone number.