Kansas City Council raises concern about Spire’s attempt to increase your natural gas bill

2018 Star file photo

City Council passed a resolution Thursday expressing ‘concern’ with local natural gas giant Spire’s proposed rate increase on Kansas City customers.

The resolution states that the rate hike, which Spire estimates would raise customers’ bills by around $132 per year and net the company over $143 million in additional revenue, “poses risk to Kansas City residents and consumers at a time when they already face increased rates of inflation and energy burden.”

The resolution calls on the City Manager’s office to seek public feedback on the proposed rate increase. It also urges the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates Spire and other utility monopolies, to “carefully consider” the case “in light of… the potential harm to Kansas Citians.”

First district councilmember Heather Hall was the only no vote.

Spire filed this rate increase request this spring following two other rate hikes the previous winter, which The Star found caused financial hardship for some families. If approved, this increase would go into effect in early 2023.

“In some parts of our community, the energy burden, or the percent of what they’re spending on their utility bills, is 10-15%, or even as high as 21% in one of our more disadvantaged census tracts,” said Andy Savastino, the city’s chief environmental officer, in a committee meeting Wednesday.

The Public Service Commission has scheduled three public hearings to gather feedback directly from natural gas customers on October 12, 13 and 18. The latter two will be most accessible to Kansas City residents.

This resolution will also lead to additional public comment periods for the city to hear residents’ concerns. We’ll update this piece with details about those new hearings once the City Manager’s office schedules them.

While the Public Service Commission considers all evidence presented in rate cases like this one, they ultimately have the authority to decide whether to approve the increase. The city can submit evidence for the case like everyone else, but it does not have decision-making power over this statewide regulator.

“(This) is a pretty substantial increase for our citizens, particularly as we go into our winter months,” said District 4 representative at-large Katheryn Shields, who sponsored the resolution. “It’s kind of hard to see how that should be allowed to go unchallenged.”

Do you have more questions about Spire’s proposed rate increases or the cost of living in Kansas City? Ask the Service Journalism team at kcq@kcstar.com.