Chesterton Tribune

 

 

NIPSCO seeks 20 percent hike in base natural gas rate

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NIPSCO correction Comments on hike go to OUCC

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company has issued a correction to its statement released on Wednesday, announcing a proposed natural-gas base rate hike which would increase the average household’s monthly bill from $50 to $60.

The correction: comments on the proposed hike should be forwarded not to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) but to the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC).

The OUCC represents the interests of utility consumers in the state and will undertake a review of NIPSCO’s filing with the IURC and--at some point in the process--organize public hearings on it.

 

By KEVIN NEVERS

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is seeking a two-phase increase of its natural-gas base rates.

Under the proposal, an average residential customer currently using 69 therms of natural gas and paying $50 per month would ultimately see an overall 20-percent increase of approximately $10, or $120 per year.

The first phase would take effect in mid-2018; the second by early 2019. NIPSCO said that the total proposed increase would generate an additional $143.5 million.

NIPSCO, in announcing the proposed increase today, said that it’s filed a rate hike request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC),

“It has been more than 25 years since NIPSCO’s base natural gas rates have increased, and in 2010, a regulatory review led to a slight decrease,” the company said. “Since that time, NIPSCO has regularly been the lowest-cost provider in Indiana--and among the lowest-cost providers in the nation--while improving service to customers. NIPSCO anticipates that, with the newly proposed rates, it will remain among the lowest-cost providers.”

Although, NIPSCO noted, natural gas base rates haven’t changed in 25 years, customers’ bills “have gone up or down periodically under a small portion of the bill called ‘trackers,’ which reflect and track certain specific aspects of (a customer’s) service. Examples include the cost associated with administering energy savings programs or approved infrastructure investments.”

Also impacting customers’ bills is volatility in the actual price of natural gas. While NIPSCO directly passes through to customers what it pays for gas, fluctuations in the price of gas in the marketplace have the effect of driving bills up or down. Thus residential customers using 69 therms of gas in 2014 paid $63 per month but only $41 per month in 2015--when the price of gas dropped--$48 per month in 2015, and $50 per month this year.

NIPSCO is justifying the proposed increase in natural gas base rates by citing the costs associated with state and federal regulations, its investment in an “aging gas system,” and the need to monitor and maintain “more than 17,800 miles of natural gas pipelines.”

“In addition to providing affordable natural gas service, customers expect their energy provider to be responsive to their needs, easy to do business with and safe,” said NIPSCO executive vice president and president, Violet Sistovaris. “This proposal seeks to strike the right balance of cost and service in order to continue delivering on our commitments to customers.”

Customers will have the opportunity to comment on the requested rate hike in several ways, NIPSCO added: through written comments submitted directly to the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC); at public field hearings; and through various consumer advocacy organizations that participate in the process.

Customers can learn more about the request and the regulatory review process by visiting NIPSCO.com/rates

 

 

Posted 9/27/2017

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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