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Mountaineer Gas base rate increase approved; customers still see lower rates

By Megan Workman
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Public Service Commission approved a base rate increase for Mountaineer Gas Company that is almost half of what the company had requested nearly a year ago.On Nov. 4, 2011, Mountaineer Gas sought a 4.9 percent, or $12.2 million, base rate increase that would affect its residential and small commercial customers.The PSC approved a 2.5 percent, or $6.3 million, base rate increase Wednesday.The gas company requested approval from the PSC for the change in the base rate -- which is based on the cost to deliver gas to customers, but also said customers' overall gas bill would still remain lower starting Thursday because of earlier decreases.The company said that its costs to deliver gas -- including general pipeline operations and maintenance, insurance, vehicles, gasoline and other items -- have risen since 2009, when the gas company last requested a base rate increase.At a June 2012 public hearing in Charleston, Mountaineer Gas customer Ron Jones said he opposed the increase.Jones had said the increase was merely a way for Mountaineer Gas executives to compensate for revenue lost during a mild winter.
Former customers of East Resources, which Mountaineer acquired in 2010, will be billed at the same rate as other Mountaineer Gas customers on and after Nov. 1. The average residential monthly bill for a former East Resources customer will decrease by $14.84, or 20.5 percent, according to the PSC's order.The natural gas utility's base rate typically accounts for one-third of a customer's gas bill, according to the PSC.Despite the base rate increase, Mountaineer Gas customers can expect lower gas prices as temperatures continue to drop.An average residential monthly bill will decrease by 8 percent, or $5.24, according to the PSC, starting Thursday.Mountaineer lowered gas rates because the price of natural gas has declined since last year.Mountaineer has more than 218,000 customers in 49 of West Virginia's 55 counties.Reach Megan Workman at or 304-348-5113. 
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