CANONSBURG, Pa., April 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), filed a request today with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PA PUC) 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 2021.
Columbia Gas is committed to upgrading aging infrastructure and replaces an average of 115 miles of pipeline every year. As part of its long-term plan to modernize and expand its natural gas distribution system, Columbia Gas has invested more than $2.2 billion in Pennsylvania over the past decade and plans to continue to invest in infrastructure replacement for the safety of its communities. Economic development of the 26-county area that Columbia Gas serves benefits greatly from this investment.
This filing is the first rate revision request by Columbia Gas in over two years.
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. That suspension will remain in effect until further notice. 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," said Columbia Gas President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Huwar, "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 at least June 1."
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.
Customer Assistance Initiative
In order to assist Columbia Gas's residential customers who are experiencing a loss of income due to the pandemic, but are not eligible to participate in the company's existing assistance programs, Columbia Gas is seeking to implement a temporary program that will provide grants to customers in need. To achieve this, Columbia Gas has filed a petition with the PA PUC requesting authority to use a portion of pipeline penalty credits and refunds that the PA PUC has previously approved for hardship funds, matched by a contribution from the NiSource Charitable Foundation, to fund the grants.
Review Process by PA PUC
Columbia Gas made its decision to file a request for a rate adjustment nearly one year ago, and the company notified the PA PUC in February of its intent to file such a request. While the company filed its request with the PA PUC today, April 24, 2020, it is important to note that after filing for a rate adjustment, the review process by the PA PUC will take approximately nine months. As a result, in this case, any approved and adjusted rates by the PA PUC would not go into effect until 2021.
In today's filing, Columbia Gas is seeking an annual revenue increase of approximately $100.4 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 $87.57 to $103.19 per month, or by 17.84 percent. The total bill for a small commercial customer purchasing 158 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $145.15 to $167.77, or by 15.58 percent. Rates for a small industrial customer purchasing 1,328 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $999.04 to $1,124.93 per month, or by 13.17 percent.
If the request is approved as filed, the total average residential customer bill in 2021 would still be more than 28 percent lower than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation.
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 PUC, 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, attendance at public hearings, and various consumer advocacy organizations that participate in the proceedings.
Customers with questions regarding the proposed rates may call Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332 or visit www.ColumbiaGasPA.com for more information.
"Our nearly 800 fulltime employees and 1,500 contractors are proud of our pipeline replacement program and our ability to continue to serve our valued customers safely and reliably," said 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."
About Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania delivers clean, affordable, and efficient natural gas to approximately 433,000 customers. With headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, it is one of NiSource's seven regulated utility companies. NiSource (NYSE: NI) is one of the largest fully-regulated utility companies in the United States, serving approximately 3.5 million natural gas customers and 500,000 electric customers through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. More information about Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and NiSource is available at www.ColumbiaGasPA.com and www.nisource.com.
NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) is one of the largest fully-regulated utility companies in the United States, serving approximately 3.5 million natural gas customers and 500,000 electric customers across seven states through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. Based in Merrillville, Indiana, NiSource's approximately 8,400 employees are focused on safely delivering reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities we serve. NiSource is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability - North America Index and the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index and has been named by Forbes magazine among America's Best Large Employers since 2016. Additional information about NiSource, its investments in modern infrastructure and systems, its commitments and its local brands can be found at www.nisource.com. Follow us at www.facebook.com/nisource, www.linkedin.com/company/nisource or www.twitter.com/nisourceinc. NI-F
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SOURCE Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.