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Public hearing draws crowd after proposed utility rate hike

The proposed rate hike is more than double what We Energies initially announced over the summer.
Posted at 5:29 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 23:38:50-04

A crowd of people from across Milwaukee jumped at the chance to speak during a public hearing after learning their We Energies bill could jump 13%.

The state's Public Service Commission, which regulates public utilities, hosted the hearing.

"Everyone who has not suffered through this pandemic is trying to price gouge us. It's poverty pimping off my community," resident Melody McCurtis said.

"The biggest problem with their increase is a company without competition is not kept in check," neighbor Brittney Taylor stated.

The proposed rate hike is more than double what We Energies initially announced over the summer.

"For our low income customers w e believe the increase can be basically wiped out. We’ve worked hard to secure federal energy assistance. We're donating significant amounts of dollars to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund so that money can be used there," We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway said. "In 2023, their average electricity bill will be lower than the national average."

The utility company cited the growing costs of natural gas and coal plus what the PSC approved in the past.

"Last year, the Public Service Commission approved two large utility increases, not for our utilities that were similar to what we produced, as updated as 13%. We're looking at their past practice, but if they don't wanna do that in this case that something will fully support," Conway said.

Conway added that investments in new clean energy projects are also a driver and that those moves will save customers significant money in the long run.

The Citizens Utility Board said a decision on the price hike could come in the next four weeks. The non-profit, which advocates for consumers, is working to keep pricing fair and affordable.

"Time is of the essence," said Tom Content, executive director at the CUB. "The more people get involved, the better the decisions are going to be, the more accountability there will be."

We Energies pointed to its assistance programs and willingness to work with customers who are struggling. Residents we talked with did not buy the utility company's reasoning and they were adamant that those programs are hard to access.

"No one answers the phone and who does answer the phone as rude as hell. Then we're left on hold," said neighbor Maria Beltran.

The public comment period is open until Monday. If you could not make it in person you can do it online at PSC's website.

Learn more on We Energies' website.

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