Public hearings begin this week over AmerenUE’s proposed rate increase for natural gas. Ameren is asking for a 14% increase totaling $12 million dollars. Investigators for the Public Service Commission recommend a $2 million dollar increase. Martha Hogerty with the Office of Public Counsel is especially irked by a portion of the increase that raises the “base cost” for all customers from $8 to $14, regardless of gas usage. Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher says it’s only asking for enough to cover its costs. The PSC should hear the case in October and decide by the end of the year.