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Illinois

Volunteers Fight Ameren Hike

Electric and gas utility wants $90 million

'Deny this rate increase'

Barbara Schmidt, 75, of Litchfield, told ICC Administrative Law Judge Stephen Yoder that "consumers are sacrificing and doing everything they can to be energy-efficient, but these rate increases are becoming a hardship." She asked Yoder to "deny this rate increase."

Frank Price, 69, an AARP volunteer from Springfield, said Ameren should pay for the improvements out of its profits. "They seem to have a lot of profit."

Ameren Illinois posted a profit of $208 million in 2010, up from $130 million in 2009.

Gerardo Cardenas, AARP Illinois communications director, said the fight over the Ameren rate request is just one part of a broader battle between consumer advocates and the two major utilities serving Illinois — Ameren and ComEd. The utilities are also lobbying for the legislature to overturn a veto by Gov. Pat Quinn, D, of a bill that would allow them to increase electric rates every year for the next decade while diminishing the ICC's regulatory oversight.

"If AARP doesn't do anything, if we don't raise our voice … the utilities are going to continue to increase rates and balance their profits on the backs of Illinois consumers," Cardenas said.

Thomas Schuh, 80, an AARP volunteer from Springfield, noted that times are tough. "I didn't get a pay increase the last two years, so they shouldn't get one either."

Also of interest: AARP stops proposal to increase electric rates.  >>

Sarah Caraher is a journalist based in Chicago.

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