ST. LOUIS, March 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Ameren Corporation (NYSE: AEE) announced today that its utility subsidiary, AmerenUE, has entered into a settlement agreement with the Staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission (MoPSC), the Office of Public Counsel, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR) and other parties to implement new natural gas delivery rates and terms for AmerenUE gas customers.
The settlement is subject to review and approval of the MoPSC. If approved, the settlement and subsequent order would result in an increase in AmerenUE natural gas operating revenues of $6 million annually. The settlement agreement calls for the rate increase to become effective April 1, 2007.
The new rates would mean a typical residential customer would see an average monthly increase of about $2.30 to $6.90, or 3 to 8 percent, depending on where in the four geographic regions of AmerenUE's gas service area the customer is located. For residential customers in central and eastern Missouri, the increase would average about $2.24 per month, or 3 percent. For residential customers in southeast Missouri, the increase would average about $2.62 per month, or 4 percent. And for residential customers in Rolla, Salem and Owensville, the monthly increase would average about $6.86, or 8 percent.
AmerenUE's last natural gas delivery rate increase occurred in February 2004.
Gas delivery rates reflect the costs of constructing, operating and maintaining the company's natural gas system. For residential customers, the delivery charges account for about one-third of a customer's total gas bill. The Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) charge accounts for the remainder of a customer's bill, excluding taxes, and is not part of this delivery rate case.
The PGA primarily reflects the commodity cost of gas purchased from AmerenUE's suppliers. Changes in the commodity cost are determined by market conditions, based upon the supply and demand of natural gas in the U.S. Upon MoPSC review and approval, these gas commodity costs are passed on to customers through the PGA, dollar-for-dollar, with no "mark-up" by AmerenUE.
Besides establishing new gas delivery rates, other provisions of the settlement agreement include:
-- A moratorium on filing a new natural gas rate case for three years. This does not apply to rate changes implemented through the PGA, and is not intended to prevent AmerenUE from filing for an Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) as provided under Missouri legislation. -- Transition to a single PGA for all AmerenUE gas customers, with customers in the Rolla, Salem and Owensville areas served by upstream pipeline Missouri Gas Company to continue paying the incremental transportation surcharge charged by that pipeline. Presently, there is a separate PGA charge in each of the four geographic regions of AmerenUE's gas service area-which are not interconnected. This transition to a single PGA charge will allow all AmerenUE gas customers to equally benefit from gas purchasing and price-hedging strategies designed to reduce price volatility in the cost of gas from the company's suppliers. This transition would begin Nov. 1, 2007, when a new PGA Transition Mechanism credit or charge would be applied to monthly bills to equalize historical gas price differentials between the pipelines supplying each AmerenUE region. -- An AmerenUE contribution of $263,000 per year to fund a low-income weatherization program, with details to be determined by a collaborative made up of representatives of AmerenUE, the MoPSC Staff, Office of Public Counsel and the MoDNR. -- An AmerenUE contribution of $100,000 per year to fund programs to promote customer use of energy-efficient gas equipment. -- Use of remaining funds (currently amounting to approximately $270,000) from an experimental energy-efficiency program for low-income customers that was established as part of AmerenUE's previous gas delivery rate case. Funds may be used for such additional services as: -- Home energy evaluations offered to moderate and middle income households at a discounted cost; -- Funding for moderate and middle income households for installation of energy-efficient natural gas equipment, with the cost repaid over time by participating customers through their monthly gas bills.
In its initial filing with the MoPSC in July, 2006, AmerenUE cited major investments in the infrastructure of its natural gas business and rising operating expenses as the primary reasons it was seeking a rate increase of approximately $11 million.
AmerenUE noted that it had invested more than $40 million in gas system improvements and expansions since the company filed for its last increase in delivery rates in 2003. The company replaced about 70 miles of old cast iron and unprotected steel gas mains and more than 3,300 service connections with modern polyethylene pipe, largely to comply with state regulations. AmerenUE also added about 215 miles of new gas mains and more than 10,000 service connections to accommodate new growth.
Ameren Corporation serves 2.4 million electric customers and nearly one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois. AmerenUE serves 1.2 million electric customers and 125,000 natural gas customers in Missouri.
Statements made in this release, which are not based on historical facts, are considered "forward-looking" and accordingly, involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed. Although such "forward-looking" statements have been made in good faith and are based on reasonable assumptions, there is no assurance that the expected results will be achieved. These statements include (without limitation) statements as to future expectations, beliefs, plans, strategies, objectives, events, conditions and financial performance. These statements are intended to constitute "forward looking" statements in connection with the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The company is providing this cautionary statement to disclose that there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated. Reference is made to the company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2006 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a list of such factors.
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