Michigan City Council opposes NIPSCO rate increase: 'This affects everyone'
MICHIGAN CITY — The Michigan City Common Council voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of a resolution opposing a proposed NIPSCO electric rate increase.
Council Vice President Don Przybylinski, who sponsored the resolution with Councilman Paul Przybylinski, spoke at length on the importance of speaking against the increase and how it would affect Michigan City residents, as well as the city budget.
Don Przybylinski, who attended the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission field hearing on the case on Jan. 4 in Valparaiso, said he was working with NIPSCO to find out just how the increase would affect the city.
“Are we a residential; are we commercial; are we municipal?” he said. “I’m waiting for an answer to figure out exactly what kind of customer we fall under and if that rate increase comes through, what effect that’s going to have on our city budget.”
He said it was important to speak at the hearing as someone representing a city. Przybylinksi also said he talked to City Controller Yvonne Hoffmaster and was told the city had already budgeted between 10 percent and 15 percent more for utility bills in 2023.
According to Hoffmaster, when creating the 2023 budget, all departments had their utility budget increased by 10 percent.
Among the council’s concerns mentioned in the resolution:
“the electric rates of NIPSCO are already among the highest of the utilities mentioned on the website of the IURC”
“residents of Michigan City are already hard pressed to pay high electric rates and certainly should not be burdened with a rate increase in these most difficult economic times”
“we are concerned that NIPSCO’s parent company, NiSource, has looked to NIPSCO electric customers to help subsidize and support other money-losing operations of the parent company”
It states the city “opposes the proposed increase to NIPSCO rates due to the adverse impact it would have on families struggling to pay existing utility bills.
The resolution further states that “rather than being rewarded for failure, it is time that NIPSCO executives take pay cuts and undertake fiscally responsible cost-cutting measures instead of seeking a bail out from already over-burdened ratepayers.”
“This here affects everyone,” Don Przybylinski said. “Everyone that’s sitting here on the council, that’s sitting in the audience, that’s watching here tonight on TV. That’s what this rate increase will do to us if it goes through.”
Paul Przybylinski, said the proposed rate increase has a big economic impact, saying NIPSCO is and has been a leading high rate utility in Indiana.
“I believe that we need to not only look at what the rate means for the citizens of our communities and their territories, but also on the factor of the high rate and what it does to commercial and businesses that are dependent on electricity.
“I think it has a big economic impact,” he said. “It amazes me that they’re talking about going with solar and going with wind and they’re going to be saving money. And yet, they want to fight about the coal pits, or, the ash pits up here at the NIPSCO station.
“It’s really a mixed bag of worms when it comes to NIPSCO. We need to do whatever we can to keep them reigned in.”
Councilman Bryant Dabney said that at a previous meeting, he had encouraged the public to reach out to NIPSCO’s Board of Directors, because they are the ones who really make the decisions.
“They have these public sessions where people show up, yell and scream at them and they’re not really decision makers. There’s a board of directors there,” Dabney said.
But Przybylinski said those who attempt to reach out to the board would not have luck, and the field hearing was their chance to speak out.
“The IURC is the board that makes the final decision on what people are saying when they show up at those hearings. That’s what those hearings are for,” he said.
The council approved the resolution 9-0. It directs the City Clerk to forward a copy to the IURC. “We would like our sentiments opposing the rate increase placed on the public record for consideration ...,” it states.