ST. LOUIS — On Wednesday, Spire held the first of three public hearings about a rate increase for natural gas services.
A lot of people who spoke at the hearing are concerned because they already can’t pay their bills.
The biggest question Wednesday night was why is this happening?
One Spire customer asked about why the rate increase?
"This is a pretty decent rate increase...you're asking for what 10% of the increase in revenue?" she said.
Scott Weitzel, with Spire, said one of the biggest reasons is natural gas infrastructure.
“A lot of the pipe was put in 60 to 80 years ago at the same time and so there's an acceleration of us needing to pull certain materials out of the ground and that's been an effort focus that really ramped up in the past 10 years,” Weitzel said.
In addition, he said the rate increase will help with an accounting reset and financing company operations.
“This is asking for recovery of dollars we spent a year ago, two years ago and it needed to get refunded and recovered for that,” Weitzel said.
As for why this is happening a lot sooner than the company hoped, Weitzel said winter storm Uri that hit in February of last year, was a big problem.
“We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars in gas costs. Those were costs not passed on to you at that time. We shouldered that burden and had to deal with that in how we run our business,” Weitzel said.
But advocates, like a man named Ethan, who work in warming centers said people already can't pay their gas bills after the last increase in December 2021.
“If this goes through, I'll be sitting there talking to some people who couldn't pay your 10% increase and then end up talking to me in the warming center. You can point out these programs in the back but there are a lot of hoops to jump through to be part of those programs. I know because I try to walk people through those steps,” Ethan said.
Danielle Holland, also with Spire, said they are working on current programs and new ones to help those who can't pay, but it's going to take time.
“We do know that just because you're at a certain income level does not mean that you don't need help, so we are currently working with that right now,” Holland said.
If the rate increase is approved, it will go into effect in late February of 2023.
Here are the rest of the hearings this week:
- Date and time: Thursday, October 13, 2022 | 12 p.m.
- Toll-free call-in number: 1-855-718-6621
- Meeting number (access code): 2469 900 3915
- Meeting password: 0179
To participate by video/Internet, visit the website www.webex.com
- Date and time: Tuesday, October 18, 2022 | 6 p.m.
- Location: Gregg/Klice Community Center
- Large Meeting Room
- 1600 E. 17th Terrace
- Kansas City, MO 64108