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Deadlines extended in IPL rate hike case

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Consumers will get at least another three months to file public comments on Indianapolis Power and Light’s recent request for a rate hike. The decision comes as new safety questions were raised following a series of explosions last month in IPL’s underground downtown electric grid.

At least four manhole covers were blown off in underground explosions on March 19. It was the second underground explosion downtown that week and at least the 15th explosion in IPL’s downtown network over the last decade.

In December 2014, prior to the latest explosions, IPL filed its first base rate hike request in nearly 20 years. The utility wants to bill customers an additional $67 million per year, which would increase the average bill by about $8 per month.

But, some utility watchdogs allege that IPL hasn’t effectively used the money it already has to adequately address safety concerns.

Proof of such spending has been hard to find.

In Indiana, base rate hike cases require a full accounting of the utility’s financial records, including spending on maintenance, equipment and inspections. Such records are not publicly available without a rate case review, critics have complained.

Public comments, both in support and opposition to the proposed rate hike were originally due April 6.

But, late last month Indiana’s Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor filed a motion asking the state’s Utility Regulatory Commission to stay IPL’s base rate until investigations into the latest underground explosions are completed.

Because of the investigation into the explosions, the IURC agreed to extend the deadline for public comment until July 27. The rate hike case is also delayed and is now set to be debated during a 10-day hearing beginning Sept. 21.

In the meantime, the IURC instructed IPL to submit a report on the root causes of the latest explosions by May 6 as part of an investigation into the utility’s “ongoing investment in, and operation and maintenance of, its network facilities.”