Ratepayer Rebellion in Evansville - a blog from our Chapter Director, Robyn Skuya-Boss

It was a stunning turnout at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) hearing on February 29. In a show of complete unity, rare as spotting an Indiana endangered alligator snapping turtle on the Ohio River, citizens, cities, and counties in SW Indiana stood together and made their voices count in our democracy. At the heart of a marathon public hearing were the powerful stories of Hoosiers confronted with the possibility of yet another rate increase that would add over $47 per month to an average CenterPoint customer energy bill. Citizen after citizen stood up hour after hour to be heard while four of the five IURC commissioners in attendance listened on. Not one person spoke in favor of Centerpoint’s rate increase which includes more than doubling the fixed charge customers have to pay before using any electricity to over $23 every month. 

A packed room of hundreds of people for a rate case hearing.

Every heart should be moved by the stories of CenterPoint energy customers who have been asked to pay far too much for far too long to feed a legacy of fossil fuel profits. Every heart should be moved by the stories of bill assistance groups sharing that they cannot keep up with the needs of neighbors who are struggling to afford their monthly energy bill. Every heart should be moved by the passionate opening provided by Evansville Mayor Stephanie Terry. And state regulators who will decide CenterPoint’s Base Rate case filed in December 2023 should have the stories of those most impacted in their minds as they weigh the merits of CenterPoint’s request in IURC Cause #45990. 

How did this ratepayer rebellion in SW Indiana mobilize over 1000 people, by one estimate, to show up to a public hearing and engage in hour after hour of compelling testimony? From my perspective the answer is clear, citizens and civic advocacy groups working together. The lionshare of credit must be given to Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy (DAACE) and Citizens Action Coalition (CAC), two groups that worked tirelessly to provide leadership, resources, and expertise to customers facing this rate increase. 

DAACE first formed in the fall of 2021 when customers were enduring an increase in the cost of gas used to heat homes and prepare meals. DAACE is a self organized citizens group that has played a major role in educating and mobilizing CenterPoint customers through peer to peer engagement over the years. CAC is Indiana’s largest and oldest consumer and environmental advocacy organization that works to protect consumers from excessive utility cost increases. CAC shared their decades of experience and expertise in opposing rate increases at a town hall to brief customers planning to provide testimony for the hearing. 

In addition to DAACE and CAC the Energy for All Coalition (EFA), which Sierra Club is also a member of, stood in solidarity with customers at the rate case hearing helping mobilize across environmental, faith, consumer and justice communities. EFA, representing 16 state and local organizations, added our collective organizing strength to the effort. 

I also want to give a big thanks to the Sierra Club community in southwest Indiana that turned out and spoke out in opposition to the rate case, including Southwestern Indiana Network leaders Niles Rosenquist and Jean Webb. 

While the public comment period is behind us, the inspiring lesson I took from the ratepayer rebellion hearing is that democracy lives within us. Thank you to the citizens of southwest Indiana for an inspiring reminder of that inalienable truth.  

You can see CAC’s recording of the hearing here

Robyn Skuya-Boss, Chapter Director