LAPORTE | LaPorte County has filed action to play an active role in overseeing a request by NIPSCO for a rate increase to fund $1 billion in proposed electrical system upgrades.
A motion to intervene by the LaPorte County Commissioners on NIPSCO's pursuit to fund the improvements with a rate increase was filed Tuesday with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman. If approved, the county would serve as a hands-on watchdog with the IURC in assuring NIPSCO's investment would be wisely spent and produce the best possible outcome on customer service and rates.
Two months ago, the county adopted a resolution asking the IURC to investigate customer complaints about poor response times and power outages lasting several days in some cases after a June storm.
Friedman said the motion to intervene on NIPSCO's request for upgrades replaces that request and is a much more effective way of holding NIPSCO accountable.
Friedman said intervening would require NIPSCO to share all information with the county about the upgrades and whether NIPSCO is living up to its promise from a legal case brought by the county over a decade ago to maintain a certain level of staff after NIPSCO was denied closing several maintenance facilities.
Intervening would also help the county determine if shareholders and industrial customers should share more of the cost of the improvements, said Friedman.
Friedman said the county wants to know from its latest motion for intervention if the upgrades will be enough to reduce outages system wide.
NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the proposed upgrades include 500 miles of new electrical circuits and 450 miles of underground cable. Upgrades are needed for an aging electrical system originally built after World War II.
There would be no impact on rates the first year. He said the typical residential customer would see less than a half percent increase on their bills in 2014 and an average of a one percent increase from 2016 to 2020. He also said there is a process for LaPorte County and any other stakeholder to get involved for having a voice in projects requested by NIPSCO.
Meyer said staffing levels have not changed in recent years and the outages in June were from three major storms that all happened within a short period of time.