Settlement funds will save Columbia Gas customers some money

Every little bit helps.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania will be using settlement funds to ease the costs of paying natural gas bills for customers in the state.

Columbia will be using more than $2.5 million received in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved settlement with Columbia Gas Transmission LLC to reduce purchased gas cost (PGC) rates for residential customers.

An additional $857,939 from the settlement is being used to reduce non-residential customer rates.

In total, Columbia will be refunding more than $3.3 million to combined residential and non-residential customers from the settlement.

“Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc. received a refund from Columbia Gas Transmission because Columbia Gas Transmission filed a base rate case settlement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which resulted in a refund to its customers,” Sarah Perry, communications and community relations specialist with Columbia for the Warren and Bradford areas, said.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) directed the company to use all of the refunds proceeds to reduce customer PGC rates on August 15.

According to the PUC, “In it’s petition, the company had asked to direct the $2.506 million residential portion of the refund to it’s ‘Hardship Fund’. The commission denied that part of the petition, and instead directed the company to return this portion of its refund proceeds to residential PGC customers.”

Perry gave clarification on the difference between Columbia’s requested usage and the eventual PUC decision by e-mail Wednesday.

“While Columbia Gas would have preferred full approval of its petition to use part of the refund for its ‘Hardship Program’, it is important to note that under either the company’s proposal or the Commission decision, our customers still get the benefit of the refund. The only real difference is which customers receive the benefit of the refunds,” Perry said. “Under the Hardship Program, customers can donate additional dollars on their total bill (which is matched up to a certain level by Columbia Gas) to help our most vulnerable, low-income customers. In our petition, we proposed to use the residential portion of the refund to supplement that program – and be focused on our most vulnerable lower-income customers – rather than being spread across all residential customers. Non-residential customers will still get a refund as was always planned. Either way, our customers benefit.”

According to Perry, under the PUC directed plan, the average residential customer will see a refund of approximately 59 cents per month on their bill for one year, or a total of approximately $7.08 for the year. Due to the wide disparity in usage between individual non-residential customers, an average was not calculated.

“There is no average refund for non-residential customers because those customers range from local shops to large industrial customers,” Perry noted.