Ameren natural gas customers in Decatur are subsidizing utility expansion elsewhere in Illinois, and paying higher rates as a result. What’s more, they will be paying these higher rates for decades – all without understanding the cost, or realizing any measurable benefit.
The ”Gas Delivery” section on Ameren customer bills includes costs related to natural gas expansion, i.e., the cost to put new pipe in the ground to connect a new customer to a gas main. These costs are not a separate line item; thus, customers don’t know what they are paying for. But if they did, they would realize that, aggregated, millions of dollars will be siphoned from customers across the state, including Decatur and the surrounding area, over the course of decades.
The exact amount customers currently pay per month due to subsidization is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain due to the lack of reporting requirements and the variability of expansion plans and cost recovery methods and timing.
According to Illinois Commerce Commission records, Ameren has used existing customers to finance approximately 65 percent of its gas main extension costs to serve areas previously considered too expensive to reach with natural gas. In other words, it offers new customers “free” service pipe, while existing customers – like you – will assume the cost in their monthly utility bills, for decades.
If you don’t appreciate paying for a stranger’s gas connection, the solution is Illinois General Assembly House Bill 2172, which is designed to increase transparency and accountability, and limit natural gas extension subsidization by existing customers. This bill remedies the increased subsidization of new facilities that has occurred in recent years.
Contact your state representative and ask that they support House Bill 2172. Contact information for all state representatives can be found at ILGA.gov/house.
Aaron DeWeese, executive director, Illinois Propane Gas Association, Sringfield