For immediate release: Oct 03, 2007
Posted by: [OUCC]
Contact: Anthony Swinger
Phone: (317) 233-2747

Vectren North gas rate case: State utility consumer advocate accepting public comments

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting public comments as it reviews Vectren Energy Delivery's request for an increase in base natural gas rates for the Vectren North service territory.

The OUCC - the state agency representing ratepayer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) - has not yet taken a position on Vectren North's request but is currently scheduled to complete its review and file testimony on Monday, November 5. Consumers who wish to provide written comments on the proposal in the meantime may submit them to the OUCC's consumer services staff via mail, e-mail or fax.

Vectren North's service territory is the region formerly served by Indiana Gas Co. including more than 565,000 customers in 49 central, south-central and southeastern Indiana counties. The utility's proposal would increase Vectren North's annual operating revenues by $41.1 million. According to its filings before the IURC, Vectren North is seeking the increase to pay for capital improvements and to cover higher operating and maintenance costs.

The utility's requested increase would apply only to base distribution rates, which typically comprise between 25 and 30 percent of a residential customer's monthly winter heating bill and cover "non-gas" costs for operating the utility. Vectren North's current base distribution rates were approved in 2004.

Wholesale natural gas commodity costs, which comprise between 70 and 75 percent of a typical residential heating bill, are recovered on a dollar-for-dollar basis through the state's Gas Cost Adjustment (GCA) process. Vectren North's GCA process, which requires OUCC review and IURC approval every three months, will not be affected by this case.

"We invite written consumer comments in all utility regulatory cases," said Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor Susan L. Macey. "Our technical and legal case team is closely reviewing Vectren's request just as our staff reviews all rate case matters before the IURC. However, consumer comments can often help us in better understanding issues at the local level."

A group of Vectren North's industrial customers has formally intervened in the case through legal counsel, as has the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 1393. The intervening parties are scheduled to file testimony on the same date as the OUCC.

This case's public file is available for review on the IURC Website (www.in.gov/iurc), by visiting http://www.in.gov/iurc/portal/Tab.aspx?tabid=28&dn=SEARCHDOCKETEDCASE and entering docket number 43298. The OUCC Website (www.IN.gov/OUCC) also includes links to specific testimonial documents.

An IURC public field hearing in this case is scheduled for Tuesday, October 23 at 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center. An OUCC informational meeting will precede the field hearing at 5:30 p.m.

The OUCC needs to receive all written consumer comments in this case no later than Thursday, November 1. Comments should include the consumer's name, address, and a reference to "IURC Cause No. 43298," and can be submitted by mail, fax or the Internet:

Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC's consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494. Comments received by the OUCC's filing deadline will be reviewed by the agency's consumer services staff, as well as legal and technical staff assigned to the case.

An IURC technical evidentiary hearing in this case is currently scheduled to begin on Thursday, December 13 in Indianapolis. While technical evidentiary hearings are open to the public, participation is typically limited to attorney and Commission questioning of technical witnesses that have filed testimony on behalf of the proceeding's formal parties. All hearing and filing dates are subject to change.

A settlement agreement is possible in any legal proceeding; such an agreement would require IURC approval. The OUCC attempts to reach a fair agreement for consumers in each IURC case.

Natural gas and electric rates in the Vectren South territory, which includes nine southwestern Indiana counties formerly served by Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. (SIGECO), are not at issue in this proceeding.

The OUCC offers a number of consumer publications on utility issues, including tips for reducing energy bills and guides to understanding natural gas prices and gas cost adjustments. All OUCC publications - including a guide to the state utility regulatory process and tips for providing effective consumer comments - are available at no charge by calling the agency toll-free or visiting the agency's Website (www.IN.gov/OUCC).

(IURC Cause No. 43298)

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is the state agency that represents residential and business consumer interests in cases before state and federal utility regulatory commissions. To learn more, visit www.IN.gov/OUCC.

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