By Linda Collins
For the Herald
ENON — Local customers who have monthly variable rate plans with Columbia Gas of Ohio may soon pay more for natural gas.
Enon Village Administrator Benjamin Ross announced during the Tuesday, Jan. 26 village council meeting that Columbia Gas of Ohio’s delivery rates are expected to increase by spring if the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) accepts a request the Columbus-based utility will file next month.
If approved, an increase of an estimated $28.3 million would be collected through the utility’s Infrastructure Replacement Program Rider (Rider IRP) and an increase of an estimated $4.9 million would be collected to cover the program costs of the Demand Side Management Rider (Rider DSM).
Beginning in May, customers participating in Columbia’s Standard Choice Offer Program would see a $1.58 increase per month on typical residential bills, based on average monthly consumption. Customers of Columbia Gas of Ohio, who have not signed fixed-rate contracts with independent suppliers, are automatically enrolled in the Standard Choice Offer Program.
“The Rider IRP increase would raise residential customers’ bills by $1.21 per month which represents a 2.3 percent increase. On average, Rider DSM would increase residential bills by $.37 per month or $4.44 annually,” Ross said. “Of course, the actual Rider IRP and Rider DSM rates are subject to PUCO approval.”
Under the plan, natural gas rates for general services, such as schools and transportation services, would increase by $9.13 per month. According to a company letter sent to village officials in November 2015, these rate increases would cover the utility company’s costs for infrastructure improvements, including replacing aged cast iron, wrought iron, unprotected coated steel and bare steel distribution pipe, as well as hazardous customer service lines.
As part of the Rider IRP, the utility company also completed the repairs or replacement of 320,000 prone-to-failure risers in 2012 and the installation of more than 1.4 million automated meter reading devices (AMRD) on all residential and commercial meters in 2013.
“Replacing our aged distribution main with modern pipe produces several benefits for our customers and our communities,” Daniel Creekmur, president of Columbia Gas of Ohio, wrote in the Nov. 25, 2015, letter.
Creekmur noted that the upgrades would reduce leaks, improving the safety of the system and would allow the company to operate distribution systems at higher pressures. Savings would then be passed on to customers as the result of lower operating and maintenance costs. The program would also create construction job opportunities, and increase local tax revenue.
Ross said customers are not required to take any action. However, if they wish to view the company’s pre-filing notice regarding Case numbers 08-72-GA-AIR and 11-5515-GA-ALT, they may visit the PUCO website at www.puco.ohio.gov. Customers who have any questions about the rate adjustments can contact Jana Croom, Director of Regulatory Affairs, at 614-460-4647.
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.