Healey Secures Decrease in Proposed Rates for Columbia Gas Customers
Agreement Saves Ratepayers $13 Million, Provides Funding for Middle-Income Residents, Prohibits Company from Imposing New Rate Increases for Three Years
Boston – Attorney General Maura Healey has negotiated an agreement with Bay State Gas Company d/b/a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas) that reduces the Company’s proposed rate increase by over $13 million, prevents it from imposing any other distribution rate increases for three years and provides $250,000 in funding to help moderate income residents in need pay their gas bills.
The settlement, filed with the Department of Public Utilities yesterday, resolves a proceeding before state regulators where Columbia Gas sought to hike distribution rates by $49.7 million. The Attorney General’s Office was able to lower the increase to $36 million, saving ratepayers more than $13 million. Columbia Gas also is prohibited from imposing another distribution rate hike prior to November 2018. Without this agreement, Columbia could request another rate hike within the next year.
Columbia Gas will use the additional revenue to replace aging infrastructure, improve employee training, and hire new employees.
“As the ratepayer advocate for the Commonwealth, it is our job to help ensure we get the best possible result for residents and businesses,” said AG Healey. “This agreement saves customers millions of dollars and puts safeguards in place for those who struggle to pay their energy bills. We will continue to fight for fair rates and require energy companies to justify their increases.”
Under the agreement, Columbia Gas will contribute $250,000 to the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund - a cooperative effort between sponsoring Massachusetts energy companies and the Salvation Army that provides assistance to residents in temporary crisis who are struggling to pay their energy bills and do not qualify for federal or state energy assistance. The agreement also maintains support for eligible low income customers through the Arrearage Management Program. To increase safety, Columbia Gas also has agreed to file annual reports describing the additional training the Company provided to workers who failed to receive their annual safety certifications.
Because of refunds due to customers, from November 2015-2016, the average residential heating customer can expect to see a one-year savings of approximately $37. Beginning in November 2016, the Company estimates that a typical residential heating customer’s bills will increase by an average of approximately $7 per month compared to current rates.
The agreement requires approval by state regulators. Columbia Gas serves over 300,000 customers in over 65 cities and towns in and around Springfield, Lawrence and Brockton.
The Attorney General’s Office is the ratepayer advocate the state and is authorized to intervene in or institute administrative and judicial proceedings on behalf of consumers in connection with any matter involving the rates, charges, prices or tariffs of any gas or electric company doing business in the Commonwealth.