What you need to know about IPL’s proposed rate increase, underground blast investigation

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INDIANAPOLIS (June 2, 2015) – Indianapolis Power and Light Co. has revealed what the company believes caused a series of manhole covers to explode weeks before the Final Four.

In documents filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the company said heat may be to blame for damaging a cable underground, leading to the March 19 explosion.

The investigation by state regulators is now tied into IPL’s request to raise customer’s rates.

“What we’re focused on right now is making sure we’re completely open and transparent with the commission,” Brandi Davis-Handy said, a spokesperson for IPL.

The IURC will ultimately act as judge and jury, first deciding a final cause and potential penalties for the explosions, and then whether to allow the company to raise electric bills.

The two cases were combined after several groups asked regulators to halt a rate hike decision until the investigation is complete.

Click here to view documents filed in the case. Enter case #44602.

“We would like to see IPL’s feet held to the fire as far as these underground explosions and problem with their infrastructure,” Kerwin Olson said, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition.

To date, IPL said it’s replaced 515 of the 1,214 manhole covers across the city to covers that lock. The switch is meant to prevent covers from exploding. Instead they’d just pop up slightly if an explosion were to happen.

The company told state regulators all the covers would be replaced by the end of the year.

“While we can’t say for sure that an incident like this will never happen again, we can tell you that we take steps year-round to reduce the likelihood of an incident happening and to reduce the impact of that incident,” Davis-Handy said.

If regulators approve a rate hike, IPL said the average customers would see an increase of roughly $8 per month. The company said the money would go toward operational costs and customer service.

Click here for IPL's rate calculator and answers to FAQ's from the company.

Critics, though, are warning state regulators about the potential impact to consumers.

“IPL is financially fairly stable, doing fairly well,” Olson said. “It’s time for the commission to consider the affordability of electric service when they’re contemplating these rate increase requests by utilities.”

Consumer comments will be accepted through July 20. Click here to file a comment. 

Timeline from the Indiana Office of Utility Counselor:

  • June 1, 2015: IPL will file testimony on the investigation and supplemental testimony on its rate request.
  • June 22, 2015: IURC testimonial staff will file a report from O'Neill Consulting.
  • July 27, 2015: The OUCC and intervening parties are scheduled to file testimony.
  • September 4, 2015: Rebuttal testimony from IPL is due.
  • September 16, 2015: An evidentiary hearing is scheduled to start in Room 222 of the PNC Center (101 W. Washington St. in Indianapolis). The hearing is expected to last up to ten days.
  • Proposed orders and briefs - the equivalent of closing arguments - are expected in October and November.