Columbia Gas of Maryland Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., filed a request on May 14 with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve revised rates for further upgrading and replacing portions of the company’s underground natural gas distribution pipelines. If approved, these proposed rate adjustments would not go into effect until the end of 2021.
“Ensuring the continued, long-term safety of the customers and communities we serve is essential, and it requires the necessary level of investment to modernize our energy infrastructure for generations to come,” said Mark Kempic, Columbia Gas president and chief operating officer. “This proposal seeks to balance cost and service in order to continue delivering on our commitments to customers.”
With more than 165 full-time employees and contracted resources, Columbia Gas has proudly invested more than $192 million in Maryland since 2009 as part of its long-term plan to modernize and expand its natural gas distribution system.
In addition to the positive economic benefits associated with these previous and proposed future investments across the Western Maryland area served by Columbia Gas, this plan also supports a positive customer experience through ensuring an educated and trained workforce that is focused on safely meeting or exceeding all federal and state industry requirements.
Helping Customers in Need
At all times, Columbia Gas is committed to providing its customers with the tools, resources and programs to stay safe and warm in their homes.
“Even with these necessary investments, any change in customer bills is meaningful,” Kempic. Said “Assistance is available, and it is our goal to work with customers to identify solutions to keep them connected.”
With the communities the company serves in mind, and in response to COVID-19, Columbia Gas is offering an expanded number of flexible payment plans to residential and commercial customers to help spread the balance due on their natural gas bills across multiple months. Information can be found at www.columbiagasmd.com/paymentplans.
Review Process by PSC
While the company filed its request with the PSC, it is important to note that after filing for a rate adjustment, the review process by the Commission will take approximately seven months. As a result, in this case, any approved and adjusted rates by the PSC would not go into effect until December 2021.
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 $97.65 to $108.73, or by 11.35 percent. The total bill for a small commercial customer purchasing 250 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $322.33 to $349.94, or by 8.57 percent. The total monthly bill for an industrial customer purchasing 4,590 therms of gas from Columbia Gas would increase from $3,921.47 to $4,165.67, or by 6.23 percent.
If the request is approved as filed, the total average residential customer bill would still be around 24 percent lower than it was 20 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.
The total overall request represents an annual revenue increase of $6.3 million.
How Customers Can Participate in the Rate Review Process
It is important to note that the public has a voice in the review process, and anyone interested in the case can reach out to the PSC. Columbia Gas encourages active involvement by customers and other parties by participating through written comments and attendance at public hearings. Residential customers are represented throughout the process by the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel.