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CenterPoint customers: Make your voice heard on proposed rate increase

As I discussed in a blog this fall, CenterPoint Energy has requested to increase its rates for natural gas. Now, state regulators are asking for comments from CenterPoint customers.

 

The rate increase request

CenterPoint needs permission from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in order to increase bills. The PUC must determine that any proposed increases are just and reasonable. There is a lengthly public process (a rate case) to gather evidence, in which the utility, state agencies, customer groups, and the public weigh in.

CenterPoint would like to increase natural gas rates by an average of 7.89% for residential customers, and by an average of 6.4% for all their customers. As a step in this direction, customers have already seen an “interim rate increase” of 5.4% on their bills since October. CenterPoint says the increase is necessary so it can make capital investments.

If the final rate increase is higher than the 5.4% interim increase, rates will increase again when the final rate is approved. If the final rate increase approved is less than 5.4%, the difference will be refunded to customers, with interest. Last year, customers saw refunds after the PUC approved only about half of what the utility had requested.

This rate increase would apply to the cost of providing gas to customers, including the pipes and the operation of the company. The cost of the gas itself, which makes up half or more of customers’ bills, changes monthly depending on the wholesale price, and is passed directly to customers.

 

Tell state regulators what you think: written and in-person opportunities

The PUC is seeking public comments on CenterPoint’s rates, service, and other issues. You can comment through any or all of the below channels.

Making comments can seem intimidating because it’s part of a formal process, but it’s much easier than it seems. The PUC wants to hear from people about their own personal experiences and how a rate increase might affect them. This is something that consumers know better than anyone else, so public input is important.

Comment in writing:

  • By email: To consumer.puc@state.mn.us
  • By mail: To Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, 121 7th Place East, Ste. 350, St. Paul, MN 55101
  • Online: At the PUC’s Speak Up website for this case (Docket 17-285)

In the subject line or heading, please indicate the docket number for this case: “MPUC Docket Number G-008/GR-17-285, OAH Docket Number 19-2500-34684.”

All comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. on March 16, 2018.

Comment in person: 

At public hearings, you can comment in person in front of the administrative law judge who’s gathering evidence and making a recommendation to the PUC. Anyone is welcome to comment, and the judge will explain the process at the beginning of the meeting. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

January 16 – Mankato
4:30 p.m.
Blue Earth Library, Conference Room
100 E Main St.
Mankato, MN 56001
January 18 – Brainerd
6:00 p.m.
Central Lakes Community College, Room E208
501 W College Dr.
Brainerd, MN 56401
January 17 – Minneapolis
5:00 p.m.
Sabathani Community Center, Conference Room D
310 E 38t St.
Minneapolis, MN 55409
January 24 – Golden Valley
5:00 p.m.
Golden Valley Library, Golden Valley Room
830 Winnetka Ave.
Golden Valley, MN 55427

 

In case of bad weather, find out if a meeting is canceled by calling (toll-free) 855-731-6208 or 651-201-2213 or visit mn.gov/puc.

More details can be found in CenterPoint’s notices about the rate case and the public hearings public hearings.

 

Author: Annie Levenson-Falk

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