Energy, State Government

PSC OKs Hope Gas rate hike case for infrastructure work; separate but related rate cut case continues

MORGANTOWN – The state Public Service Commission on Friday approved one of two rate cases filed by Hope Gas.

This one was filed in May and is a rate hike for its Pipeline Replacement and Expansion (PREP) program. State code allows the PSC “to approve cost recovery of projects to replace, upgrade and expand natural gas utility infrastructure that are deemed to be just and reasonable and in the public interest.”

The total proposed hike of $66,537,753 covers two Hope programs: its General Program for its core distribution system and its Gathering Program for gathering facilities. Hope estimates that the proposed rate hike will raise the monthly residential bill by $6.45 per month – 5.84%.

For 2023, Hope estimates costs of $64,037,753 for the General Program and $2,500,000 for the Gathering Program.

PSC staff recommended on Aug. 1 that the PSC approve the hike and PSC issued its order on Friday.

While this is a rate hike, the second case before the PSC could result in a net rate decrease.

That case, filed Aug. 1, is Hope’s 2023 Purchased Gas Application, which gas companies are required to file annually to account for the cost of the natural gas they buy and distribute.

Hope’s application proposes a series of new rates for various types of customer, from resident to commercial and industrial.

For the average residential customer, Hope projects the monthly bill dropping by $19.60, a 16.93% decrease.

But the decrease won’t actually be that much. Hope points out in its application that has another rate case before the PSC awaiting final approval, and that one is a rate hike. The two proposals will be factored together.

Hope told The Dominion Post on Thursday that the proposed $6.45 hike would be subtracted from the $19.60 decrease, to give a projected rate cut of $13.15.

Pending PSC approval of both cases, Hope projects that the new rate would take effect Nov. 1, based on purchase costs for the period starting at that date.

The PSC referred the decision in Purchased Gas Application case to an administrative law judge, setting an Oct. 1 deadline for an interim decision and Mach 28, 2024, for its final decision.

PSC staff said it will audit Hope’s purchased gas expenses and deliver interim and final recommendations to the PSC within its specified time frame.