According to a press release from Columbia Gas of Maryland, Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) has filed a request with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve revised rates for further upgrading and replacement of the company’s underground natural gas distribution pipelines. If approved, these proposed rate adjustments would not go into effect until December 2020.
Columbia Gas is committed to upgrading aging infrastructure. As part of its long-term plan to modernize and expand its natural gas distribution system, Columbia Gas has invested more than $170 million in Maryland over the past decade and plans to continue to invest in infrastructure replacement for the safety of its communities. Economic development of the counties in Western Maryland where Columbia Gas provides service benefits greatly from this investment.
“Our nearly 65 full-time employees and over 100 contractors are proud of our pipeline replacement program and our ability to continue to serve our valued customers safely and reliably,” said Columbia Gas President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Huwar. “We also remain committed to providing a positive customer experience through an educated and trained workforce that is focused on safely meeting or exceeding all federal and state requirements while operating, upgrading and expanding our distribution system.”
In today’s filing, Columbia Gas is seeking an annual revenue increase of approximately $6.5 million. Approval of the proposal would result in the average total bill for a residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month from Columbia Gas to increase from $77.65 to $89.43, or by 15.17 percent. The total bill for a commercial customer purchasing 250 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $256.23 to $285.09, or by 11.26 percent. Rates for a small industrial customer purchasing 3,980 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $2,534.42 to $2,652.35, or by 4.65 percent.
If the request is approved as filed, the total average residential customer bill in 2021 would still be around 28 percent lower than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation.
Response to COVID-19
With the communities we serve in mind and in response to COVID-19, Columbia Gas has suspended shutoffs for nonpayment for residential and commercial customers. Columbia Gas offers a wide array of customer assistance and energy efficiency programs that provide resources and tools for customers to save money and energy.
“We want to assist our customers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Huwar said. “With that in mind, we are offering our most flexible payment plans to customers who have been impacted or are experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19, and we are suspending late payment charges until further notice.”
At all times, Columbia Gas is committed to providing our low-income customers with the tools, resources, and programs to stay safe and warm in their homes. These programs help customers mitigate the impact of a rate adjustment or financial changes due to economic conditions.
Review Process by PSC
While the company filed its request with the PSC today, May 15, 2020, it is important to note that after filing for a rate adjustment, the review process by the PSC will take approximately seven months. As a result, in this case, any approved and adjusted rates by the PSC would not go into effect until December 2020.
How Customers Can Participate in the Rate Review Process
It is important to note that the rate review process is very public. Anyone interested in the case can participate by reaching out to the PSC, and we encourage active involvement by our customers and any interested parties. Customers can participate in the rate review process in multiple ways, including through written comments and attendance at public input hearings.
Customers with questions regarding the proposed rates may call Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332 or visit www.ColumbiaGasMD.com/ratecase for more information.