Peoples Natural Gas seeks base rate increase

Peoples Natural Gas has filed a request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to increase natural gas distribution rates as of March 29.

Peoples has requested an overall net distribution rate increase of $94.9 million per year.

If the company’s entire request is approved, the total bill for a Peoples residential customer using 86 thousand cubic feet per year would increase from $74.24 to $84.73 per month or by 14.1 percent.

“This is for the base rate. The last time Peoples filed for an increase in the base rate was 2012. This is for the operations and maintenance side of the company for our long-term infrastructure and improvement plan, for the repair and replacement of aging pipelines,” Peoples spokes­man Barry Kukovich said.

Distribution rate increase filings by public utilities trigger a PUC review and investigation process that can last up to 9 months — including the abilities for concerned parties to intervene, along with hearings to gather public comment. All of that information, along with legal briefs, expert testimony and input from organizations like the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforce­ment, Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate and Office of Small Business Advocate, leads up to final review by the commissioners, PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said.

“Each utility case is different — and many recent rate cases have been resolved by settlement, for amounts lower than initially requested by the utilities. The common factor for all rate cases is that each utility must support its request with facts and evidence. Public input plays an important role, and final decisions by the commission are based on the facts and the law,” Hagen-Frederiksen said.

Kukovich said if ap­proved, the rate increase likely wouldn’t take effect until fall.

Peoples serves 736,000 customers in 18 western Penn­syl­vania counties and parts of West Virginia and Ken­tucky and about 31,200 customers in Blair County.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.