MERRILLVILLE, Ind., March 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- On Friday, March 18, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), filed a request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to adjust its base rates for distribution service so it can continue to upgrade and replace the Company's underground natural gas distribution pipelines.
"Our number one priority is maintaining the safety of our customers and the communities we serve," said Mark Kempic, president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. "We have made, and will continue to make, substantial capital investments in our system to enhance the safe and reliable system that we currently operate. We believe this filing provides a number of tangible benefits to our customers."
From 2007 - 2015, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania invested nearly $1.1 billion to modernize and expand its distribution system in Pennsylvania. Of that amount, approximately $845 million was dedicated to replacing over 744 miles of priority pipe. In 2016 alone, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania will invest $210 million in Pennsylvania, with more than $160 million dedicated to upgrading aging underground infrastructure across its 26-county service territory.
"We are proud of our pipeline replacement program and our ability to continue to serve our valued customers safely and reliably, but our work doesn't stop there," said Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Vice President and General Manager Mike Davidson. "We also remain committed to providing a positive customer experience through an educated and trained workforce focused on safely meeting or exceeding all federal and state requirements while operating our distribution system."
The filing, if approved by the PUC, would not only provide the Company with an opportunity to earn a fair return on its infrastructure capital investments, but also enhance pipeline safety through a number of initiatives.
"Multiple new pipeline safety rules and advisories are changing the manner in which we operate and will require additional training and new operating standards," Davidson noted.
In the filing, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is seeking an annual revenue increase of approximately $55 million.
"We are working more efficiently than ever, and we will continue to look for additional ways to make the most cost-effective decisions for our customers," said Kempic. "Even with this filing, the total average residential customer bill, when adjusted for inflation, would still be 29 percent lower in 2017 than it was in 2006."
Approval of the proposal would result in the average total bill for a residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month increasing from $77.33 to $86.97 (12.47 percent), the average total bill for a small commercial customer who purchases 158 therms of gas per month increasing from $128.29 to $139.74 per month (8.93 percent), and the average total bill for a small industrial customer who purchases 1,328 therms of gas per month increasing from $898.47 to $958.60 per month (6.69 percent). These figures represent an annual average monthly bill with the customer purchasing their gas from Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.
Director of Rates and Regulatory Affairs Nicole Paloney noted, "The impact on the customer's bill associated with this filing is softened thanks to continued low, stable natural gas costs. On behalf of our customers, we work with suppliers to secure the best possible natural gas prices, while maintaining the reliability of gas supply during peak demand periods."
Gas costs generally represent about a third of a residential customer's total bill. Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania purchases its gas on the wholesale market and under Pennsylvania law passes these costs on to its customers without mark-up or profit. The gas cost portion of a residential customer's monthly bill is based entirely on their home's monthly gas consumption.
In addition to a wide array of customer assistance and energy efficiency programs that provide resources and tools for customers to save money and energy, the Company also utilizes a Weather Normalization Adjustment (WNA) that stabilizes the distribution portion of a customer's bill to reflect normal weather levels if temperatures are 5% greater or 5% lower than normal during the winter heating season.
The process for a general rate proceeding before the PUC can take up to nine months and the company expects that new rates would be effective at the end of 2016. Customers with questions regarding the proposal may call 1-888-460-4332 or visit the Rate Adjustment Information Center at www.ColumbiaGasPA.com to learn more.
About Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania delivers clean, affordable and efficient natural gas to approximately 420,000 customers. With headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, it is one of NiSource's seven regulated utility companies. More information about Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is available at www.ColumbiaGasPA.com.
NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) is one of the largest fully-regulated utility companies in the United States, serving approximately 3.5 million natural gas customers and 500,000 electric customers across seven states through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. Based in Merrillville, Indiana, NiSource's more than 7,500 employees are focused on safely delivering reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities we serve. NiSource has been designated a World's Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute since 2012 and is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability – North America Index. Additional information about NiSource, its investments in modern infrastructure and systems, its commitments and its local brands can be found at www.nisource.com. Follow us at www.facebook.com/nisource, www.linkedin.com/company/nisource or www.twitter.com/nisourceinc. NI-F
This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of federal securities laws. These forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Examples of forward-looking statements in this release include statement regarding NiSource's or any of its subsidiaries' business, performance, infrastructure investments and growth. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the projections, forecasts, estimates and expectations discussed in this release include, but are not limited to, NiSource's debt obligations; any changes in NiSource's credit rating; NiSource's ability to execute its growth strategy; changes in general economic, capital and commodity market conditions; pension funding obligations; economic regulation and the impact of regulatory rate reviews; compliance with environmental laws and the costs of associated liabilities; fluctuations in demand from residential and commercial customers; economic conditions of certain industries; the price of commodities and related transportation costs; the reliability of customers and suppliers to fulfill their payment and contractual obligations; potential impairments of goodwill or definite-lived intangible assets; changes in taxation and accounting principles; potential incidents and other operating risks associated with our business; the impact of an aging infrastructure; the impact of climate change; potential cyber-attacks; risks associated with construction and natural gas cost and supply; extreme weather conditions; the ability of subsidiaries to generate cash; uncertainties related to the expected benefits of the separation of Columbia Pipeline Group and other matters set forth in the "Risk Factors" section in NiSource's Annual Report on Form 10-K and in other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. NiSource expressly disclaims any duty to update, supplement or amend any of its forward-looking statements contained in this release, whether as a result of new information, subsequent events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
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SOURCE NiSource Inc.; Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.