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Proposed Gas Increase Puts Customers on Edge

Higher gas bills brought debate to St. Joseph as customers got a chance to sit in on a public hearing. Missouri Gas Energy says the increase is needed to make upgrades that would ultimately benefit customers.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri Gas Energy customers came forward for a public hearing Tuesday to voice concerns about a proposed rate increase.

"I just don't understand," explained one concerned customer.

MGE request would increase monthly bills by about 2 dollars and 30 cents.

The company says the increase would help pay for upgrades.

"Will help us to recover our cost for upgraded infrastructure and pipelines in the ground for our customers to help us provide safe and reliable natural gas service," said Jenny Gobble, Spokesperson for MGE.

The increase would also bring in nearly $25 million a year in revenue.

The company says it's the first time they've asked for an increase in more than four years.

With temperatures hitting well below freezing, they say it's important customers stay warm.

"When they come home in the cold winter months and turn on that furnace or even turn it up a few degrees since it's extra cold they'll have that reliability of natural gas in their home," added Gobble.

For those already struggling to pay their bills, the increase brings a new burden.

Community Action Partnership, which provides utility assistance to low income families, has exhausted state assistance money.

They say an increase would hurt their customers.

"It would hurt everyone, our low-income folks that use our services to keep warm it would really devastate them," said Gina Smith with Community Action Partnership.

If the increase is approved, CAP won't get any additional funding to off-set the increase.

They say they'll get around $75,000 more dollars to help but don't know how soon it will arrive.

Although assistance is on the way, there's a waiting list for the money.

"People that are in crisis so if you're already disconnected or if you're facing a disconnection notice those folks will be served first," added Smith.

The state's public service commission has nearly a year to review the request for an increase.

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