ST. LOUIS — ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and its allies from the Service Employees International Union and Missouri Progressive Vote held a spirited rally outside the Ameren U.E. office here August 5. Ameren U.E., Missouri’s electric and gas utilities provider, has proposed an 18 percent rate hike.

“With families already under tremendous pressure in today’s economy, I can’t imagine why Ameren thinks that now is the right time for such a massive rate increase,” said ACORN member Darryl Moore.
According to Glenn Burleigh, ACORN’s St. Louis lead organizer, ‘with the official unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent here in St. Louis, Ameren’s rate hike is essentially a regressive tax.’

People of color, low-income communities, and retirees on fixed incomes are likely to be disproportionately affected by the proposed rate hike. If the rate hike is approved it would be the largest increase in at least two decades, increasing the average household’s bill by about $180 a year, or about $15 a month.

“With so many families already struggling to make ends meet, all this will do is force more families to seek government energy assistance. Our government is already under huge financial strain and forcing more families to apply for government grants is completely unacceptable,” said Moore.

As people drove by the rally honking in support, local ACORN member Lynn Oldham said, ‘We came out and are getting the message out that we can’t accept these increases. This is why we have to stick together and support each other on issues affecting the community.

Keith Tubbs, St. Louis regional organizer for Missouri Pro-Vote, said, ‘Rate hikes always affect working people the most. Instead of across-the-board increases, Ameren should focus its proposed increases on wealthier communities, communities that can afford it.’

Additionally, Moore said, ‘it is important that the Public Service Commission knows that the proposed rate increases are too much for its customers to bear.” The PSC regulates investor-owned electric, steam, natural gas, water and sewer companies.

ACORN was also protesting Ameren’s numerous surcharges, de-facto rate increases. “Surcharges that can be used to circumvent the normal Public Service Commission process should be greatly limited and only granted after an exhaustive public review shows them to be necessary,” said Moore.