Customers of Oklahoma Natural Gas will pay slightly more for gas service under a proposed settlement that comes before a Corporation Commission administrative law judge Thursday.
ONG asked for a rate increase of $16.2 million earlier this year. An agreement worked out with commission staff, the attorney general's office and a group of industrial consumers came up with an increase of $9.5 million.
But the gas utility said customers should actually see a decrease in their bills when separate adjustments for fuel costs are taken into account. Several riders, which are separate agreements for changes outside the normal course of business, also will expire and help to lower bills.
Under the proposed settlement, ONG's residential customers will see monthly service charges increase by 96 cents, or almost $12 a year, said Cherokee Ballard, ONG spokeswoman. But combined with the fuel adjustments and elimination of riders, customers should see monthly bills fall by an average of $8.75, depending on usage.
“Basically, this increase requested is to recover our increased business costs and natural gas infrastructure investments that we've made since 2008,” Ballard said. “This is providing us the opportunity to keep our system safe, improve the system and keep providing safe, reliable natural gas to all of our customers.”
Ballard said ONG has spent more than $93 million on infrastructure since 2009. Among the improvements have been new meters that allow remote reading from the street and money for new inspections required under the federal Pipeline Safety Act.
ONG's last rate increase was for $54.5 million in 2009. The utility has since moved to an annual “performance-based ratemaking” review that allows for greater flexibility to make adjustments.
Ballard said the proposed settlement would raise customer charges for small commercial and industrial consumers by about 16 cents per month. Larger commercial and industrial consumers would see monthly charges fall by 85 cents per month. Information for how fuel adjustments would affect bills for those customers was not available.
The hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Courtroom B of the Jim Thorpe Office Building, 2101 N Lincoln in Oklahoma City. The judge will issue a recommendation to the three-person commission, which has the final say in the matter.