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IURC public hearing January 3 in Merrillville on NIPSCO gas rate hike

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Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) customers will have the chance to comment on the utility’s pending natural gas rate request, at an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission public field hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, in the freshman lecture hall at Merrillville High School, 276 E. 68th Place.

Consumers are encouraged to arrive by 5:45 p.m. for an overview of field hearing procedures and the rate case process.

At an IURC field hearing consumers may speak directly to the commission, under oath and on the record, regarding the rate case and may also submit written commens for the case record. But commissioners will not answer questions.

Staff from the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) will be on hand, however, before, during, and after the hearing to answer questions about the process.

The OUCC is scheduled to file testimony on Jan. 24 and is using its legal and technical resources to review NIPSCO’s request in the meantime.

NIPSCO provides natural gas service to approximately 820,000 customers in 32 Indiana counties. Its pending request would raise rates in two phases, with increases taking effect in 2018 and 2019.

According to its testimony and exhibits, NIPSCO’s request would raise an average monthly natural gas bill for 69 therms by $10.35 if and when the proposed increase is fully implemented. The impact on specific bills will vary based on usage.

A household using 147 therms per month and currently paying $93.47 per month would see its bill increase to $105.93, the OUCC said. A household using 69 therms per month and currently paying $49.44 would see it bill increase to $59.79.

Under NIPSCO’s request, the flat monthly residential customer charge would increase from $11 to $19.50, the OUCC said, while the volumetric part of the base rate would rise from 11.1 cents per therm to 17.7 cents per therm.

The request would give NIPSCO’s gas utility a $143.5 million increase in overall annual operating revenues, which is a raise of approximately 22.7 percent over current natural gas revenues.

In its testimony and exhibits, NIPSCO states that it’s seeking the new rates due to increases in operating and maintenance costs, and to pay for numerous system upgrades. The utility’s request includes more than $9.5 million in new program expenses. It includes a significant increase in depreciation expenses in addition to cost recovery for infrastructure projects in its Transmission, Distribution, and Storage System Improvement Charge (TDSIC) plan, which received IURC approval in 2014. By law, NIPSCO has been allowed to recover 80 percent of the plan’s capital projects and expenses through its TDSIC tracker. The law required the utility to defer the remaining costs to its next base rate case.

“The proposed increase in this case would only apply to NIPSCO’s base distribution rates, which currently comprise approximately 49 percent of a typical residential natural gas customer’s monthly heating bill,” the OUCC noted. “Base distribution rates cover ‘non-gas’ expenses such as capital improvements and the costs of operations and maintenance.”

Wholesale natural gas supply costs, which currently make up 51 percent of a typical customer’s bill, are recovered on a dollar-for-dollar basis through the state’s Gas Cost Adjustment (GCA) process. NIPSCO files its GCA requests, which require OUCC review and IURC approval, every three months. The pending rate case will not affect the GCA process.

“NIPSCO’s current natural gas base rates received IURC approval in 2010, though amounts on customer bills have changed due to the utility’s TDSIC tracker and fluctuations in wholesale natural gas costs,” the OUCC said.

Electric rates are not at issue in this case.

Consumers who wish to submit written comments for the case record may do so via the OUCC’s Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm or by mail, email, or fax:

* Mail: Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204

* e-mail: uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

* Fax: (317) 232-5923.

The OUCC needs to receive all written consumer comments no later than January 17, 2018 so that it can consider them in preparing its testimony and file them with the IURC to be included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 44988.” Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at (888) 441-2494.

A final order is expected next summer. The OUCC is posting case updates online at www.in.gov/oucc/2621.htm

 

Posted 12/12/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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