HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a smaller than requested increase in rates for natural gas distribution services by Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc. (Columbia). The order also includes a series of future steps the company must take to address energy affordability, customer assistance programs and outreach to households who may qualify for assistance.
The Commission voted 4-0 in support of an Order and Opinion granting Columbia an annual revenue increase of $63.5 million (11.1%), compared to Columbia’s initial request to increase annual revenues by $100.4 million (17.54%). Additionally, the monthly residential customer charge was left unchanged, at $16.75, rather than increasing to $23.00, as Columbia had proposed.
In a joint statement, PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille and Vice Chairman David W. Sweet emphasized the need for Columbia Gas to address issues raised by consumer advocates about Columbia’s programs to assist struggling customers and outreach to those households.
Today’s Commission order details the following additional steps related to energy affordability and assistance for income-qualified households:
- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc. shall submit to its Universal Service Advisory Committee, within six months of the entry date of this Opinion and Order, the question of how customer payments on Customer Assistance Program bills can be pursued through a reasonable collections process.
- Columbia shall be fully prepared to address this Customer Assistance Program collection policy issue in its next Universal Service and Energy Conservation Plan.
- Columbia shall address energy affordability in its next Universal Service and Energy Conservation Plan filing, specifically the energy burden guidelines established in the Commission’s Customer Assistance Program Policy Statement.
- Columbia shall address its efforts to reach and enroll low income customers in its upcoming annual Management Audit Progress Reports due in 2021 and 2022.
The Commission’s order was by notational vote – with each of the four Commissioners voting individually and separately – because of the quickly approaching deadline for final action in this matter. The results of the notational vote will be recorded at the next PUC public meeting, with the record of the votes cast and substance of the action taken formally entered into the minutes of that meeting.