MASON COUNTY — Local customers of Mountaineer Gas could face a rate increase this fall.
According to a press release from AARP, Mountaineer Gas filed a request in Nov. 2011, to the West Virginia Public Service Commission (WVPSC) to increase rates, tolls, and charges for their natural gas service. It was reported the new rates would be an increase of 5.16 percent, which translates to $3.40 per month, or $41 a year. It is estimated the increase would generate an additional $12.18 million a year for the utility.
It was estimated that this increase would affect more than 218,000 Mountaineer Gas customers over 49 counties in West Virginia, including Mason County. Tom Hunter, spokesman for AARP, stated Mason County along with many surrounding counties like Cabell and Putnam will be affected, as well as all counties that border the Ohio River. According to the press release, the six counties that are not served by Mountaineer Gas and will not affected by the increase are Hampshire, Morgan, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Taylor, and Webster Counties.
Citizens concerned about this increase have a chance to speak up and voice their opinion at a series of public comment hearings hosted by the WVPSC coming up in the next few weeks. Hunter stated since the hearings are scheduled near the Fourth of July, and other events around that time of year have a tendency to be overlooked, they are working hard to get the word out to the public. The first hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 25, at the WV Public Service Commission, at 201 Brooks Street in Charleston. The second is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 5, at the Pullman Plaza Hotel, at 1001 Third Avenue in Huntington. The third hearing will take place at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 6, at the Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, Pine Room, WV 88, in Wheeling. The fourth and last hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 12, at the Raleigh County Convention Center, Room A, 200 Armory Drive, in Beckley.
Citizens may also submit a comment by visiting www.psc.state.wv.us, and selecting “Submit a Comment.” Public comments may also be mailed to West Virginia Public Service Commission, 201 Brooks Street, P.O. Box 812, Charleston, WV, 25323. Comments should reference Case #11-1627-G-42T. The WVPSC will hold evidentiary hearings on this case on July 17-19 in Charleston.
According to the press release, AARP is concerned this request to increase rates is simply an attempt to reap profits from customers at a time when rates are at a reasonable and affordable level. Hunter stated that $3.40 a month may not seem like much for some, but for elderly citizens who live on a fixed income, these little increases in utilities, as well as increases in other expenses such as groceries and prescription medications, can add up and have a significant difference.
Hunter was unsure about when this rate increase would take effect. It was reported in a previous edition that when Mountaineer Gas filed for the increase in Nov. 4, 2011, it was to become effective on Dec. 4, 2011. On Nov. 29, 2011, the WVPSC suspended the request until Aug. 31, 2012. It was on April 20, 2012 that the schedule of the public hearings was released. Although Hunter was unsure, he did say that if the increased was approved, it could possibly take effect around Sept. 1, 2012.