New Low-Income Assistance Programs Proposed
INDIANAPOLIS – Citizens Energy Group is requesting permission to raise wastewater rates to continue funding the federally mandated work on the DigIndy Tunnel System and other projects that are cleaning up area waterways. Today Citizens filed a petition with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) that if approved would raise the average monthly residential bill about $8.50 in summer 2019, $2.75 in 2020 and $2 in 2021.
Recognizing the impact wastewater rate increases have on household budgets, Citizens also is proposing additional assistance for low-income customers through a Low-Income Customer Assistance Program that will provide a 10, 18 or 25 percent discount on wastewater bills for customers who qualify for a similar discount program offered to low-income natural gas customers. Also included in the proposal is the creation of a wastewater infrastructure fund to assist eligible low-income customers with water conservation measures and plumbing repairs.
While it is necessary to increase wastewater rates to continue to fund the DigIndy Tunnel System and other sewer infrastructure projects, Citizens’ water system rates have remained flat over the last few years due to efficiency improvements and cost reductions. At the same time, ongoing efficiency and long-term natural gas supply contracts that leveraged lower prices have helped Citizens lower the average residential natural gas bill more than 40 percent over the past decade.
Citizens President & CEO Jeffrey Harrison said, “These increases are absolutely necessary to stay the course on our ongoing efforts to complete the federally mandated DigIndy Tunnel System and to rehabilitate our aging sewer system in order to prevent failures such as those that occurred downtown this past summer. None of us at Citizens takes this or any request for a rate increase lightly.”
Over the next seven years, Citizens will complete the 28-mile DigIndy Tunnel System, the largest infrastructure project in Indianapolis’ history, to nearly eliminate sewer overflows and restore area waterways to levels not seen in more than 100 years. Restoring local waterways will enhance recreational opportunities while helping drive neighborhood revitalization and economic development across the city.
As a result of $1.2 billion in investments since 2011, Citizens has already completed the first 10 miles of the DigIndy Tunnel System, doubled the size of its two wastewater treatment plants and rehabilitated more than 80 miles of aging sewers. Since it opened late last year, the 10-mile portion of the tunnel has prevented more than 500 million gallons of sewage from reaching the White River and Eagle Creek.
While Citizens seeks additional funds to complete DigIndy, employees are more focused than ever on holding down operating and capital costs, according to Harrison. The utility’s value engineering process has already reduced the original $2.4 billion cost of DigIndy and associated investments by more than $400 million, while increasing the expected environmental benefits.
“We greatly appreciate the understanding and patience of our customers and the communities we serve as we complete DigIndy. We know our utility investments are helping make Indianapolis a more livable and sustainable city,” said Harrison.