Indiana Utilities seeks 10.8 percent rate hike
Increasing expenses have prompted Indiana Utilities Corp. in Corydon to request a 10.8 percent increase in its natural gas base rates.
Indiana Utilities manager Frank Czeschin said yesterday that the investor-owned company has not had a base rate increase since 1996.
The company had a case before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in 2000, but the rates neither increased nor decreased at that time, he said.
‘Our expenses have increased in 7-1/2 years like any other business,’ Czeschin said.
There are two components in figuring a customer’s natural gas bill: the base rate plus a gas cost adjustment, which is multiplied by the amount of gas used. Czeschin said the gas cost adjustment changes four times a year, based on a review by the IURC.
Indiana Utilities filed the request for the increase in April.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), which represents the interests of all utility consumers and the public in matters relating to utility services, is reviewing Indiana Utilities’ proposal. It is scheduled to file written testimony with the IURC on or before Aug. 12.
Consumers can send comments to the OUCC by mail, FAX or the Internet by using the following addresses:
* Mail: Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 100 N. Senate Ave., Room N501, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
* Fax: 1-317-232-5923.
*E-mail: [email protected]
* Online through its Web site at www.IN.gov/oucc/contact/index.html.
An evidentiary hearing by the IURC is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 6 at the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis. The hearing is open to the public, but participation usually is limited to the questioning of technical witnesses who have filed testimony on behalf of the proceeding’s formal parties.
Filing and hearing dates are subject to change, and a settlement agreement could be reached.
Indiana Utilities, which serves about 2,900 customers in Harrison County, has proposed a base rate increase of about 10.8 percent to cover increases in operating and maintenance expenses.
One new expense was added to Indiana Utilities Jan. 1, when it had to pay a Utility Receipts Tax. Czeschin said the utility used to be exempt from the tax because of its size. ‘Now we’re not,’ he said.
And a large consumer was lost earlier this year, when Gohmann Asphalt bought Corydon Stone and Asphalt. Czeschin said Gohmann had the ability to switch from natural gas to recycled oil.
‘We would like to have our natural gas prices as low as possible,’ Czeschin said.
One way Indiana Utilities helps keep rates low is to buy gas in the futures market.
Czeschin said any rate changes approved by the IURC would go in effect the first of the month.
‘With the hearing set for Oct. 6, the best case scenario would be for the rate change to go in effect Dec. 1 or Jan. 1,’ he said.
Indiana Utilities Corp. is in the processing of sending letters to its consumers to explain the base rate proposal.
Persons with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494. The OUCC also offers consumer publications, including ‘A Guide to State Utility Regulatory Proceedings,’ ‘Natural Gas Prices’ and ‘Gas Cost Adjustments: A Guide for Consumers.’ All OUCC publications are available by calling the OUCC’s toll-free number, 1-888-441-2494, or visiting its Web site, www.IN.gov/OUCC.