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OUCC extends comment period on NIPSCO gas rate hike to February 28

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The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has extended its deadline for public comment on NIPCSO’s proposed gas rate hike, to Feb. 28, to allow parties additional time to consider information related to the federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, including potential implications for NIPSCO’s proposal.

In the meantime, the OUCC continues “to use its legal and technical resources to review NIPSCO’s request,” the agency said today.

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 testimony and exhibits filed in September, NIPSCO’s request would do the following:

* Raise an average monthly natural gas bill for 69 therms by $10.35 if and when the proposed increase is fully implemented.

* Increase the flat, monthly residential customer charge from $11.00 to $19.50.

* Raise the volumetric part of the residential base rate from 11.1 cents per therm to 17.7 cents per therm.

* Provide the gas utility with 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 is seeking the new rates due to increases in operating and maintenance costs, and to pay for numerous system upgrades,” the OUCC said. “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 said. 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, the OUCC noted. 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. 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 Feb. 28. 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.

 

 

Posted 1/23/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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