Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania seeking rate increase for pipe replacements

David Weissman
York Dispatch
.Columbia Gas logo

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is requesting a rate increase that, if fully approved, would raise its average residential customer's monthly bill about 9 percent.

The request, filed with the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, is seeking to increase the company's annual revenues by approximately $46.9 million, according to the company's public notice.

The PUC has scheduled a public input hearing on the proposal for 6 p.m. June 21 at the Courthouse Square Building in Washington County.

Members of the public can schedule to provide testimony at the hearing at least 10 days before the hearing by calling the commission's scheduling office at 717-787-1399.

Base distribution rates and gas costs make up customers' bills, with utility companies required under state law to charge exactly what they paid on natural gas, without profit. The distribution rate, which includes maintenance and upgrades, is set by the PUC.

The proposed increase to customers' base distribution rates is to aid the company's efforts to replace and upgrade natural gas pipelines, according to company spokesman Russ Bedell.

The company has invested $1.6 billion in these efforts in Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2017 and more than $215 million so far in 2018, Bedell said.

The average residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month would see their monthly bill increase from $91.63 to $99.88.

Bedell noted that even if the request is fully approved by the PUC, customers' costs would still be about 21 percent lower than they were in 2006 when adjusting for inflation.

He said the current low price of natural gas makes now a great time to invest in infrastructure.

Columbia Gas last requested a rate increase in 2016, when it reached a settlement to increase its revenues by $35 million per year.

The PUC recently ordered 17 major utility companies to begin refunding to customers money that they were saving as a result of a decrease in the federal corporate rates under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Columbia Gas was among seven utilities not required to take immediate action because of its pending rate case, but the PUC noted that the tax cut would be factored into its determination.

Bedell said the company's request does factor in that decreased tax rate.

Based purely on the impact of the federal tax changes, Columbia Gas would need a 4.11 percent reduction in distribution charges, according to a commission analysis.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.