SEATTLE – Simon ffitch, chief of Public Counsel Section within the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, said the office is taking a hard look at Northwest Natural Gas’ new proposal to increase rates for its approximately 66,000 residential customers in Southwest Washington.
The company filed a request today with the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to procure an additional $4.34 million in revenues. Northwest Natural Gas proposed new usage rates and requested to raise the monthly customer charge, which all customers pay regardless of how much gas they use, from $5 to $12. If approved, average residential customers would see a nearly18 percent increase in their monthly bills. (UPDATE: The nearly 18 percent increase was calculated based on company revenues from recovering fixed costs. When gas revenues are included, the difference is closer to 6 percent. Both calculations were including in documents filed by the company. For more recent information, see the AG's Sept. 3 release.)
The company also wants to adopt “decoupling.” Decoupling allows utilities to pass along a surcharge to customers to make up for lost revenue that results when customers use less energy.
“We are very concerned with the size of the proposed increase and the impact it will have on residential and small business customers,” ffitch said. “We are particularly concerned with Northwest Natural Gas’ proposal to introduce decoupling to its Washington customers. Decoupling removes the incentive for customers to conserve energy and can potentially be an unfair windfall for company revenues.”
The UTC has the final authority to approve or deny the request and is expected to make a decision next year. Customers will have an opportunity to voice their concerns to the UTC during a public hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. They can also submit comments online at www.wutc.wa.gov/comment or call the UTC toll-free 1-800-562-6150. The Attorney General’s Public Counsel Section also accepts comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Public Counsel Section advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers and other rulemakings before the UTC. Public Counsel also advocates for consumers in court appeals, through technical study groups and before the Legislature and other policy makers. The office maintains contact with the public through a citizen advisory committee, community organizations, public hearings and personal contact with consumers in major cases. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online at www.atg.wa.gov/utilities-regulated.
Media Contacts: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432
Simon ffitch, Public Counsel Section Chief, (206) 389-2055
Editor’s Note: The spelling of Simon ffitch is correct – the surname begins with two lowercase f’s.