For immediate release: Jul 19, 2010
Posted by: [OUCC]
Contact: Anthony Swinger
Phone: 1-888-441-2494

Switzerland County natural 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 Switzerland County Gas Co., Inc's. request to increase its base rates and charges.

The OUCC - the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) - is reviewing the utility's request and has not yet taken a position in this case. Currently, the OUCC anticipates completing its review and filing its report with the Commission on September 7, 2010.

According to its filing before the IURC, Switzerland County Gas Co. is requesting $104,858 in additional annual revenues due to increases in operating and maintenance costs. The utility's current rates were approved in 2005.

The proposed increase in this case would apply only to the utility's base distribution rates, which comprise 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 capital improvements and the costs of operations and maintenance.

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. Switzerland County Gas Co. files its GCA requests, which require OUCC review and IURC approval, every three months. The GCA process will not be affected by this case.

Switzerland County Gas Co. 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 who wish to submit written comments in this case may do so via mail, fax, or the Internet:

Written comments should include the consumer's name, mailing address, and a reference to "IURC Cause No. 43897-U." The OUCC needs to receive all comments in this case no later than August 31, 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, please visit the OUCC Website at www.in.gov/oucc/2622.htm.

The OUCC's Website also offers a number of utility consumer publications at no charge, including tips for saving energy and a guide to understanding natural gas prices.

(IURC Cause No. 43897-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.

 

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