CHARLESTON — One natural gas company that services area residents has applied to the state Public Service Commission (PSC) for a small rate increase while another one has requested a rate decrease.
But according to the PSC, the majority of requests from companies around the state this year will be for decreases because of the lower cost of natural gas.
Cardinal Natural Gas, with about 3,300 customers in Bluefield, has asked for a rate hike.
If approved by the PSC, the average monthly residential bill for Cardinal customers will increase 1.23 percent or $1.14. For commercial customers, the average monthly increase would be 1.32 percent or $1.83.
With the proposed rate hike, Cardinal would see an increase of about $75,000 in annual revenue, according to the public notice required for the application.
Customers with Mountaineer Gas Company, which services portions of Mercer, McDowell and Monroe counties, will see a small rate decrease, if approved by the PSC.
Mountaineer residential customers’ average rate drop would be 1.8 percent or $1.08 a month.
Commercial Mountaineer customers’ average monthly bills would fall 2.2 percent or $5.40.
Monthly costs to residents and businesses will vary depending on usage.
According to the public notice about the proposed changes, Mountaineer will see an annual revenue decrease of more than $3.8 million, a 3.9 percent drop.
The company has about 220,000 customers around the state.
Susan Small, with the PSC in Charleston, said the rate increases and decreases depend on the cost of the natural gas the companies purchase.
“The Rule 30-C procedure is designed to provide a procedure for changing rates charged to customers by natural gas distribution utilities based exclusively on the cost of purchased gas,” the public notice says.
If the proposals are approved by the PSC, each company’s rate change would become effective Nov. 1.
The PSC said Monday it is expecting slightly lower gas utility bills across the state for the upcoming heating season.
Natural gas utilities that serve over 91 percent of the natural gas customers in the state have filed requests with the commission to lower the purchased gas portion of their rates.
“Only five companies, serving 8.5 percent of residential natural gas customers, have requested an increase in their purchased gas prices due to under-recovery of gas costs in 2018 and, in some cases, projected higher gas prices being charged by their suppliers,” the PSC said.
The commission does not regulate the price of natural gas; that price is determined by competitive markets. But the PSC does examine the gas purchasing practices of gas utilities and ensures the utility satisfies its burden to show that dependable, lower-priced gas supplies are not readily available.
By law, gas utilities are permitted to recover their costs to purchase natural gas. The gas rates of customers are adjusted annually to account for the cost of gas in a process called a Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) proceeding before the commission. The PGA is an estimate of expected prices utilities will have to pay for gas from their suppliers for the period of November 1 through October 31 of the following year, as well as a “true up” of actual costs for the previous year. The PGA does not include any profit for the utility.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org