Customers shocked by electric rate hike try to fight back

Customers shocked by electric rate hike try to fight back
By: Carly O'Keefe
MARION, Ill. - Thumbing through a stack of electric bills, Representative John Bradley of Marion says he's outraged at how much of a rate increase Ameren CIPS put into effect January 1. "People are hurting. These utility companies, I can't believe they're doing this to people," said Bradley.
The lawmaker says when the rate freeze was not extended, he expected to see a 40 percent increase at most, but that's not what's showing up on bills this month. "The percentages I'm seeing here are astronomical. They're 80%, 100%, 200%," said Bradley.
"I think Ameren ought to be ashamed of themselves," said Marion school teacher Sherry Austin. Austin's bill was two-and-a-half times larger this month than last. It grew from $367 in January to $949.94 in this month. "I was expecting some kind of increase, but nothing of this magnitude," said Austin.
Rodney Foster of Royalton was also shocked to see the bottom line on his bill this month. "It jumped from $185 last month to $410 this month, that's over double, that's ridiculous," said Foster.
Foster says he simply can't afford to pay that much for one utility bill. "I may call Ameren and say I can't pay it, what are you going to do," said Foster.
Bradley wants folks to send him copies of their January and February Ameren bills. He'll take those to the folks in power to show how much of a hit southern Illinois is taking. "Let's show the rest of the state what this utility company is doing to us-- how they're putting people out of business, forcing individuals into bankruptcy, putting senior citizens in a situation where they not only have to chose between medicine and food, but electric and medicine and food," said Bradley.
Bradley intends to take the copies to Springfield next week to urge other lawmakers to reinstate the electric rate freeze that was lifted January first.
You can fax a copy of your electric bill to Representative John Bradley's office: 618-997-9807. You can also drop it off in person or mail it to his Marion office located at:
501 West Deyoung St.
Suite 5
Marion Illinois