MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Attorney General Lori Swanson says Centerpoint Energy is to blame for a “spike” in some people’s gas prices.

“The program seems to be picking winners and losers among rate players, for reasons that are unfair,” she said.

Swanson said the pilot billing program that started last summer is hurting some senior citizens and low income families — customers that are home more often and have to use more gas.

“The people who use the most are paying double what the people who use the least would be paying,” Swanson said.

Surrounded by more than 20 people who are challenging CenterPoint’s “tiered pricing program,” Swanson said the idea is good in theory, but not in practice. Instead of a flat rate it charges by the more gas a customer uses, the more they pay.

CenterPoint went from a flat rate to tiered pricing last July. The idea was to reward customers who use less gas.

Since it began, CenterPoint says 80 percent of customers are actually paying the same or less for gas, and just 20 percent are paying more. But that 20 percent includes people like Jack Ross.

He and his wife are on a fixed income. Both have cancer and live in an older home where they spend much of their time. Last winter, they paid $164 more than they are used to.

“I heard they were doing the rate change and I called and complained about it,” Ross said.

Jim Branstad lives in St. James, in a home that was built in 1923. He said he’s done a lot of energy-efficient work to his house, but found himself paying a lot more last winter.

“I can afford to pay the rate but I don’t like to. But there are a lot of families in our community and I just want to stick up for them as well,” Branstad said.

CenterPoint said those customers only pay more over a four-month period, and will pay less during the rest of the year.

“What we are going to do now is review the comments, and respond accordingly and within the regulatory process,” said CenterPoint spokesperson Rebecca Virden.

Swanson said some people have experienced longer billing cycles — up to 39 days in some cases.

She said CenterPoint did not do this intentionally. In fact, Swanson believes the premise behind the program is to get people to conserve energy.

She is asking the Public Utilities Commission to suspend and review the program, and wants CenterPoint to pay back what she feels some customers overpaid last winter.

Comments (25)
  1. Ryan K says:

    Centerpoint energy is a evil company.

  2. bonez says:

    From the newscast: “It’s affecting larger families…..”
    I had TWO children because I could afford TWO children, without any government help…..grrrrrrrrrr!!
    Ten kids or two kids EVERYONE should pay for what they use…grrrrrrrrrr again!! 😦

    1. Mike says:


      Without the help of the government and your neighbors, your two children would not be attending public schools for nothing! Those roads you get to work on, their built by the government. The police who patrol your neighborhood, government workers. Ever have a fire? Those are government workers too! Your short sighted, “I am in it for me”, is getting old.

      1. grrrrr says:

        Scenario… Bonez/family (wife and 2 kids) pays 50k in taxes… Then there is the Mike/family (wife and 2 kids – but not necesarily you) pays $10k in taxes (income/% based).

        my guess is Bonez has paid his fair share for the public schools. roads, police officers.. %% for %%…

        His comment regarding his ability to afford 2 kids is because his discretionary income is larger.. He lives in a larger home because he can afford it but that has an improportionate increase in energy (because of tiering and not unit) because he has a larger home… because he makes more money….

        Do we penalize someone for their success?? – their ability to proivde more for their family? Is this a “tax” ??? You make more, you pay a higher %, you have a bigger home and your cost/unit is then a higher %. Its not an “I am in it for me” attitude, its about the ability to pay a standard price for a standard service and someone should not have to pay more just because the may use more…

  3. M B says:

    I’m actually paying less than I was before. I admit when I saw the layout of the pricing structure, I had a moment of “BOHICA”, but my house is pretty energy efficient Our bill used to reach over 100 dollars in the coldest part of the winter (yeah, I know, cheap right?) but last winter it barely made it to $90.

    I did realize quickly that it was going to penalize those with the older homes that aren’t as energy efficient, and that those same people aren’t likely going to have money to have money to update their places either, since that can cost into the tens of thousands…

  4. Sue says:

    You should also sue them for letting them raise rates for a year before the Utilities Commission says it’s ok to raise rates, I don’t know how people can think that this is fair allowing the centerpoint energy to raise rates before approval and if not approve they will credit you, will they credit you along with interest? Because that is what they are doing getting extra money with interest for a year while waiting for approval, I don’t think that is fair and just plain wrong.

  5. Victim Du Jour says:

    Lawyers are suppose to be disbarred when they forget we are not living in a socialist country.

    You use more, you pay more, you use less, you pay less.

    This has been a concept in the United States for centuries.

    1. Auntie Venom says:

      Yeah, but that;s not faaaaiiir!

    2. I knew you were a Victim says:

      For centuries huh pal….bit of an exaggeration seeing how there has only been 2!!!

      And please back up your idiotic statement by providing some examples of how consumers have been penalized for purchasing MORE products….throughout the history of the United States (as you said there smart guy)

      I don’t even think you understand what you read before you respond sometimes. Your responses are so moronic, off the mark and asinine sometimes…it is unreal. Is English your second language? Where did you immigrate from?

      1. Victim Du Jour says:

        So you are saying it’s perfectly fine for energy companies to price gouge people who use less energy??

        Yeah, you are right, the Pligrims didn’t risk their lives to escape the government, taxes and religious persecution.

        For 100’s of years this country did not thrive from a free market system.

        1. Mike says:


          If your right, which is never the case, Centerpoint will be allowed to continue a two tier pay system that allows them to gouge users who can least afford it. I don’t think they are going to win this one and I am sure, you will never make a point that can’t be refuted.

          1. Victim Du Jour says:

            The two tier system was developed, so losers don’t have to pay their bills or get a discount for being a loser, and the cost is passed on to seniors, single people and couples without children.

            Socialism is a ponzi scam for losers.

    3. huh? says:

      You buy a gallon of gas, you pay $3.79 a gallon, you buy 20 gallons you still pay $3.79 a gallon. You buy a burrito at Taco Bell and you pay $.99, you buy 10 and you still pay same price per. Why would this be any different?? Same as you don’t penalize someone who “doesn’t” drive a hybrid. They pay the same price per unit of gas, one just uses more units than the other.

  6. soapboxgod says:

    What company/business charges you more for purchasing MORE of their product? Ever hear of a thing called volume discount pricing??

    We went from a monopoly (Northern States Power) to an equally deletarious duopoly (Centerpoint, Xcel).

  7. ener-tea says:

    WOW! You people complaine that those who USE more should NOT be CHARGED more…..but when it comes to taxes…..throw that out the window! The more you make the more can can be taxed?

    I think this is a good idea! It will really make people think twice about using more energy!

    1. Mikw says:

      ener-tea bagger

      If you would have read the article you would have learned that some people, usually those that can’t afford to pay more because they are living on fixed incomes and are sick or with young children need to keep their homes warm.

      We understand your point, it’s all about you………..

  8. happy gas says:

    I think we should do the same with gasoline. The first 5 gallons 1.50/gallon, next 5 gallons 3.00/gallon, up to a max of $10/ gallon or whaterver the market will tolerate. This is what center points scheme does. Me with a motorcycle and smaller car would fare pretty well. Those with full size vehicles would not like it though. Manufacturing and warehouse companies or any company with large spaces to heat get hit hard with the center point pricing model, not just home owners.

    1. Mike says:

      Happy gas

      Great idea!

  9. djp says:

    I am with Excel. I pay for the gas/electricity that I use. THAT is what makes me more energy efficient…

    1. tea-ch a man to fish says:

      But what if I told you the people that use MORE are causing your prices to go up! Last I checked….gas and electricity did not grow on trees and there is a finite amount of it in the world.
      I understand your point djp, but what incentive is there to get people to update their houses so we can all be more energy efficient.

  10. MARGIE says:


  11. Victim Du Jour says:

    I used a front loading washing machine in Northern Europe and one load took 3 hours, because it used very little energy.

    And many people don’t have dryers at all. Most people have all their clothes air drying in the bathroom.

    And then you hear Americans complain about body Oder in Europe.

  12. Mr. Clean says:

    Victim every stinking day:

    The only complaint Americans have is YOUR body odor which you graciously share with all of us on this post.

    1. Slow down.... says:

      Wow…..a little angry?

  13. Victim Du Jour says:

    And then a few news stories away, they are talking about a Duluth Public School Employee making $170,00 a year.

    Imagine how many “European Appliances” you can buy with $170,000?

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