Ameren Corp.'s utility subsidiary, AmerenUE, has entered into a settlement agreement with the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC), the Office of Public Counsel, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and other parties to implement new natural gas delivery rates and terms for its Missouri gas customers.

Subject to review and approval of the MPSC, the settlement and subsequent order would result in an increase in AmerenUE natural gas operating revenues of $6 million annually, which is $5 million shy of the company's original request. The increase is to become effective April 1.

The new rates would mean a typical residential customer would see an average monthly increase of $2.30-6.90, or 3-8%, 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%. For residential customers in southeast Missouri, the increase would average about $2.62 per month, or 4%. And for residential customers in Rolla, Salem and Owensville, the monthly increase would average about $6.86, or 8%.

AmerenUE said its last gas delivery rate increase was in February 2004. In its initial filing with the MPSC in July 2006 (see Daily GPI, July 10, 2006), AmerenUE cited major investments in infrastructure and rising operating expenses as the primary reasons it was seeking a rate increase of approximately $11 million.

Other provisions of the settlement agreement include:

The utility said funds may be used for such additional services as home energy evaluations offered to moderate- and middle-income households at a discounted cost and 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 the utility's initial July 2006 request, 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.

AmerenUE serves 1.2 million electric customers and 125,000 natural gas customers in Missouri.

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