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State cuts Columbia Gas rate hike in half, company to refund $23.8 million to customers

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, 12:24 p.m.

State regulators approved a rate increase for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania that’s 45 percent less than the company had requested.

The Public Utility Commission on Thursday approved a $26 million revenue increase, or 4.52 percent, effective Dec. 16. In March, Columbia Gas had asked for a $46.9 million increase, or 8.16 percent.

Under the settlement, the typical monthly bill for a residential customer using 70 therms of gas per month will increase by $4.11, from $91.63 to $95.74, or 4.49 percent. Under Columbia Gas’ original proposal, the average total monthly bill for the same residential customer would have increased by $8.25, from $91.63 to $99.88, or 9 percent.

Under the approved settlement, about $23.8 million from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will be refunded to customers over 18 months. Customers will get the refund through a credit applied to their bills on a percentage basis with interest starting no later than Dec. 16.

Columbia Gas spokesman Russell Bedell said the company accepted the settlement.

According to Bedell, Columbia Gas invested $1.6 billion in Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2017, with about $1.2 billion spent to replace more than 922 miles of pipe. In 2018 alone, the company is spending $263 million in the state, with more than $190 million to upgrade aging infrastructure.

“This settlement that was approved by the PUC today represents a reasonable return for our significant investment in Pennsylvania,” Bedell said.

Columbia Gas provides natural gas service to about 426,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in parts of 26 counties in western, northwestern, central and southern Pennsylvania.

Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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