The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting public comments as it reviews the pending request of Fountaintown Gas Co., Inc. for an increase in its base rates and charges.
The OUCC - the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) - is reviewing Fountaintown's request and has not yet taken a position in this case. Currently, the OUCC anticipates completing its technical and legal review in this case and filing its report with the Commission on January 26, 2010.
Fountaintown Gas Co. provides service to more than 3,200 customers in Decatur, Hancock, Henry, Rush and Shelby Counties. According to its filing with the IURC, the utility is seeking an additional $995,000 in general operating revenues due to increases in operating and maintenance expenses and to cover the costs of distribution system improvements.
The proposed increase in this case would only apply to the utility's base distribution rate, which comprises approximately 25 to 30 percent of a typical residential natural gas customer's monthly heating bill. Base distribution rates cover "non-gas" costs such as operating and maintenance expenses, and capital and infrastructure improvements. Fountaintown's current natural gas base rates were approved in 1997.
Wholesale natural gas supply costs, which make up between 70 and 75 percent of a typical customer's bill, are recovered on a dollar-for-dollar basis through the state's Gas Cost Adjustment (GCA) process. Fountaintown's quarterly GCA process, which includes an OUCC review and requires IURC approval, will not be affected by this case.
Fountaintown is seeking the rate increase through the state's Small Utility Filing Procedure, which is available to utilities with fewer than 5,000 customers and is designed to reduce the time and expense involved with regulatory filings. Savings are gained by allowing utility staff to use standardized forms and the utility's resulting need for less assistance from rate consultants or attorneys.
The standard for OUCC and IURC reviews on small utility filings is the same that applies to traditional utility filings. The OUCC conducts its review on behalf of consumers while the IURC's review is conducted on behalf of the public interest (a balancing of utility and customer interests). 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 ratepayers in each IURC case.
Consumers may submit written comments to the OUCC by mail, fax or the Internet:
- Mail: Consumer Services Staff
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South
Indianapolis, IN 46204
- Fax: (317) 232-5923
- E-mail: uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov
- OUCC Website: www.IN.gov/OUCC
Written comments should include the consumer's name, mailing address, and a reference to IURC Cause No. 43753-U.
The OUCC needs to receive all comments in this case by January 19, 2010. Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC's consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494.
For additional information on this case, including a copy of the utility's filing, visit the OUCC Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2581.htm. The agency's Website also offers a number of free consumer publications including a guide to understanding natural gas costs and tips for saving energy.
(IURC Cause No. 43573-U)
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) represents Indiana consumer interests before state and federal bodies that regulate utilities. As a state agency, the OUCC's mission is to represent all Indiana consumers to ensure quality, reliable utility services at the most reasonable prices possible through dedicated advocacy, consumer education, and creative problem solving. To learn more, visit www.IN.gov/OUCC.