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Customers air concerns at hearing for Oklahoma Natural Gas rate hike

Some Oklahoma Natural Gas customers expressed concerns over a proposed increase in their monthly service charge under a settlement in a rate case. The settlement would grant ONG an increase of $13.7 million, less than the $16 million the utility requested.
by Paul Monies Modified: June 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm •  Published: June 13, 2014

Oklahoma Natural Gas customers concerned over a proposed rate increase questioned regulators and company officials Thursday over higher service charges on their bills.

ONG requested a rate hike of $16 million, but has agreed to a $13.7 million settlement with regulators, the attorney general’s office and a group of industrial consumers. The proposed increase would add $1.52 to the service charge portion of residential customer bills.

Infrastructure upgrades

The utility, which has 847,000 customers in Oklahoma, requested the increase to recover $250 million it spent on replacing and repairing pipelines and for smart meters and other infrastructure since 2012.

Several customers showed up to a public hearing Thursday at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

One customer, Mark Burkett, of Oklahoma City, asked why he has to pay for a service charge in the summer months when he doesn’t use any natural gas. Burkett said he’s been an ONG customer for 22 years and has seen the service charge rise from nothing to $6 and now more than $13.

“I fail to see how it’s fair, just and reasonable,” Burkett said.

ONG representatives and staff from the commission’s public utility division spent about half an hour after the public hearing to answer customer questions.

In response to Burkett, they said the service charge goes toward paying for the pipelines and other infrastructure needed for service. Utilities in Oklahoma aren’t allowed to profit on the cost of natural gas, which is passed on to customers and also includes storage and transportation costs.

Another customer questioned the process at the Corporation Commission, saying she suspected utilities ask for more in rate increases but know they will settle for a smaller amount.

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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I fail to see how it’s fair, just and reasonable.”

Mark Burkett,
Oklahoma Natural Gas customer


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