Consumer advocate wants I & M rate hike request cut

    Indiana’s state advocate for utility consumers has recommended that Indiana Michigan Power receive only one-eighth of the rate hike it is seeking.
    The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is considering a request that I&M says would increase a typical bill by just over 22 percent. The utility says the request would produce about $174 million in new annual operating revenue, but the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor wants that capped at $22 million.
    Customers who pay about $86 a month would see their bill jump to $106.
    Consumer counselor David Stippler says the utility hasn’t demonstrated the need for such a large increase on its nearly 460,000 customers in northern Indiana.
    I&M spokesman David Mayne told The Journal Gazette  the utility has spent $440 million on its system since its last rate increase and deserves a fair recovery on that investment.
    The commission has held public hearings on the proposed increase in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Muncie. Also, the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is submitting written comments from more than 300 I&M customers for the formal case record.
    A hearing is scheduled on June 18 in Indianapolis.
    A subsidiary of American Electric Power, I&M serves some 180,000 electric customers in northeast Indiana.