The state has approved the northern Indiana utility NIPSCO’s controversial rate increase. The utility will raise rates for residents while allowing industrial companies to buy potentially cheaper energy elsewhere.
By March of next year, the average NIPSCO resident’s bill will go up by about $6 a month.
Even though that’s $5 less than the company had originally proposed, La'Tonya Troutman with the LaPorte County branch of the NAACP says it could have a big impact on low-income and minority residents.
“It's kind of disappointing, but expected to see that there's always going to be a bailout of business at the expense of the people and the communities most impacted,” she says.
This new change will allow industrial companies to buy less of NIPSCO’s energy and be able to get the rest from cheaper energy sources . NIPSCO says part of the reason for the rate change was to keep its industrial customers — which make up almost half of its sales — from leaving the utility and driving up prices even further.
Spokesperson Nick Meyer says some industrial companies wanted access to lower market prices, while others, like BP, wanted to generate their own electricity.
“They have a natural gas-fired generating station right on their facility. And so at any moment in time, they could say, well, we want to use that for our own electric needs,” he says.
Kerwin Olson is the executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. He says this change will shift the costs of infrastructure like power plants to residents and commercial businesses.
“Our issue is that those large customers are being excused from paying the costs for investments which were made to serve them as customers,” he says
But Meyer says industrial customers have paid more than their fair share — for years they’ve covered the cost of infrastructure that they haven’t used.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.