Thursday, March 10, 2016

Useless Utility Consumer Counselor's Office Agrees To 31% Sewage Rate Increase For Citizens Energy

Citizens Energy is supposed to be a nonprofit, public benefit corporation providing utility services to Indianapolis residents at the lowest rates possible, but the overpaid executives who run the company treat it as a for-profit utility they bilk at our expense to make themselves multi-millionaires. The dishonest executives of the company lied to the public when they claimed its acquisition of Indianapolis' water and sewer utilities would lead to greater efficiencies and smaller rate increases. Instead, we've been treated to annual requests for double-digit rate increases. According to a settlement agreement reached with the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor's Office, Citizens Energy will sock it to ratepayers with yet another staggering 31% hike in sewer bills, hiking average monthly bills from $35 to $46 by 2017.

The useless state utility consumer counselor, David Stippler, says ratepayers should be happy because his office helped save them $26 million a year since Citizens Energy had originally requested a rate increase that would have amounted to $87 million a year. As I've said before, the consumer counselor's office is a big misnomer. Nobody has ever been hired to run that office unless they are approved by the utility lobbyists. If a person in charge of that office ever actually advocated for consumers, they would be run out of this state on a rail by the utility bosses. Utility companies in Indiana have this two-step dance where they always submit rate increases much larger than they really need so they can give the utility consumer counselor's office cover to claim they are advocating on behalf of consumers when a smaller rate increase is approved.

If this agency represented consumers, it would have never agreed to the deal under which Citizens Energy acquired the water and sewer utilities from the City of Indianapolis. The purchase price approved under that deal was about $1 billion higher than what the utility was actually worth. Citizens had to go deeply in debt to provide a half-billion dollar cash payment to the City of Indianapolis, in addition to assuming more than a billion dollars in accumulated debt, attributable in part to the over-valuation of the water utility the City acquired from NiSource, which bought the utility on the cheap, sold off its most valuable assets and neglected to maintain the utility's infrastructure before selling to the City.

Our utility regulators allowed the repeated flipping of the water utility as part of a scheme to enrich self-dealing insiders. That self-dealing included allowing the privatization of the utility to Veolia, the French-owned company which systematically defrauded ratepayers through various over-billing schemes. Ratepayers were forced to absorb a $30 million payoff to Veolia just to make it go away when Citizens Energy acquired the water and sewer utilities from the City. So don't let anyone at the IURC or the OUCC tell you they look out for the interest of the utility consumers. They don't. They're either the most incompetent group of regulators imaginable or they're just bought and paid for by the utility companies and only act for their benefit.

Unfortunately, Indiana lacks any legitimate news media to call out these folks for the corrupt, incompetent bunglers they truly are. So enjoy the millions of dollars in phony TV and radio commercials Citizen Energy's CEO Jeff Harrison, who isn't even qualified to run a corner dime store let alone a major utility, spends for his own personal vanity to tell you what a great job he and his fellow swindlers are doing running a not-at-all public benefit corporation. As long as he and his buddies have their free tickets to Colts and Pacers games, country club memberships and multi-million dollar retirement packages, that's all that matters to them.


Anonymous said...

"Not for profit charitable trust" is truly meaningless, they are a municipal corporation no different than most other local public entities. There were over 200 people paid north of 100,000 in 2015, the top dozen "execs" cleared 300,000-2,000,000. Board members make over 40k a year to attend a few dozen meetings. What other government entity in this state operates this way?? Keep in mind most of their slushy budget over the years came from the natural gas wells in SW Indiana, although if they were following their true mission the money they made would offset our utility bills, but that's not how we do things here in Indy. Their goal since taking over Indys water and sewer utilities is to take over those services in every other central Indiana community. Hold on to your butts, folks. And your wallets!

Anonymous said...

Fact: They are ripping off the consumers as well as their employees and retirees.

Fact: Why do they pay sub-contractors $15,000.00 to replace fire hydrants when in house employees can do the same job at a cost of $3000.00. Count the number of hydrants and see who is getting rich.

Fact: Why does the new CEO of Citizens gas have a commercial on the radio about water rate increase cause the the water lines are all old and so much water is wasted each time there is a break. They new this when they bought the water company now want the customers to pay for it.

Fact: Check and see why they pay board members so much?

Fact: See what is being run out of the old water company building on Waterway Boulevard.

I say follow the money and see what executives and supervisors are making a hell of a bonus that goes unclaimed while they get free landscaping, paved driveways, etc.............

Gary R. Welsh said...

Believe it or not, Citizens claims it spends all of that money on TV and radio commercials because the IURC orders them to do it. I suppose the IURC is also ordering them to spend millions of dollars annually entertaining themselves at Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse, the Speedway, etc. It's like I said, it hasn't operated like a true public benefit corporation for decades. The industrial pioneers who founded it intended that it would provide utility services dirt cheap, and they volunteered their services running the organization. The management and board are populated with people only interested in self-enrichment who could care less how harmful their sky-high utility rates have become to people barely getting by paycheck to paycheck.

Pete Boggs said...

These aren't real world executives but patronage parked political hacks. It's corrupt & should be investigated as such.

Anonymous said...

It does seem criminal what's happening to our utility bills. Who wants to live here anymore with all this happening.

LamLawIndy said...

I supported the sale of the water company based on my good experience with Citizens Gas. I was wrong to support that sale. I am not ashamed to admit it.

Anonymous said...

Ditto LamLaw, ditto. Performed due diligence in researching benefits vs. costs of sale. Trusted the word of board members known for their noble, unselfish character. Not ashamed either, but bitter.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who opposed the crony flips of the Indianapolis Water Company were called reactionaries, fools, uninformed, and tin-foil hat stupid.

Now those who supported the corruption admit the folly of that support.

As if that changes the damage done in the water company scam or any of the multitude of illegal scams the utterly useless with-a-function Indianapolis City County Council allows to stand. Or those state wide scams perpetrated by the Indiana GOP under career politicians like Bosma.

Thank you Marion County Republicans and the ATTORNEYS who run that RICO-like organization (that is sarcasm, btw...)

Downtown Indy said...

When I look at all the horrible, rough, pockmarked and sunken patches put down over utility cuts, I wonder who is managing these contractors.

When I look at last year's nicely repaved Pleasant Run Parkway from Ritter to Arlington, I wonder who is scheduling work since another project (replacement of the bridge over Pleasant Run) is all set to tear up the road starting next week.

When I look at the 4 month job of fixing the perennial street flooding problem under the railroad bridge at Sherman and Southeastern, I wonder why the paving contract didn't resolve the broken, patches-over-patches pavement mess 100 feet either side of the bridge?

The prices contractors demand (which can workout to millions of dollars per mile) results in crappy workmanship that looks like amateurs did it.

I just have to shake my head in disbelief.

Flogger said...

The whole reason to keep "Flipping" the Water Company was to line the pockets of a selected few with commissions and their expenses. It was cost-plus. That cost was a lot as you make commissions and fees based upon the sale price.

Mayor Blowhole also got some money to pass around.

Anonymous said...

Citizens ignores the on-going cost of employing inexperienced, entrenched family members and friends who are lacking in the knowledge and social skills to properly fill a position. Managers, used to a club mentality, plod along in a system absent from repercussions from uncaring superiors. Unwarranted six figure incomes are paid to those who actually may cost the company that amount.

Anonymous said...

What is astounding, but not surprising, about all this is that just like Vision Fleet, just like the failing Blue Indy battery rental car business, it will all be allowed to stand.

Does not matter that the commentary here is accurate, the corruption will be allowed to stand.

Illegal, amoral, unethical, lawless, it does not matter. IT'S ALL STILL THERE just as was predicted.

The career political class cares for nothing except its own power, privilege, position, and payola.

Anonymous said...

Time for a citizen's investigation panel & summary court to expose and review these abuses.