Comments invited for proposed gas rate hike

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HANCOCK COUNTY — If you want to comment on Fountaintown Gas Company’s proposed rate increase, you are invited to do so.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), is reviewing the utility’s request and is scheduled to file its recommendations on Feb. 6, 2023.

Current base rates for Fountaintown Gas – a natural gas utility providing service to more than 3,500 customers in Decatur, Hancock, Henry, Rush and Shelby Counties — received IURC approval in 2013.

According to its filing, the utility is seeking the rate increase due to higher operating and maintenance costs, and to pay for infrastructure improvements including new meters, main replacements, automated pressure monitoring, improved mapping, and additional improvements.

For 20 Therms a month, the current gas bill is $32.87 and the proposed gas bill is $38.25. For 50 Therms a month, the current bill is $66.51 and the proposed bill is $75. For 100 Therms a month, the current bill is $122.58 and the proposed bill is $136.24.

Base distribution rates comprise approximately 50% of a typical Fountaintown Gas residential bill. They cover “non-gas” costs such as operating and maintenance expenses and capital infrastructure improvements. The remaining 50% of a typical monthly bill pays for the natural gas itself, which the utility recovers on a dollar-for-dollar basis subject to OUCC review and IURC approval every three months.

Fountaintown Gas Co. has filed this case through the IURC’s Small Utility Filing Procedure, which is designed to reduce the time and expense involved with regulatory filings for utilities with fewer than 8,000 customers. Savings are gained by allowing utility staff to use standardized forms and forego a technical evidentiary hearing. This is designed to result in utilities needing less assistance from rate consultants or attorneys, leading to fewer expenses to be passed on to customers.

The OUCC uses the same standard to review a utility’s operations and records whether it seeks a rate increase through the Small Utility Filing Procedure or a traditional case. Conducting its analysis on behalf of all utility consumers, the OUCC will present the results of its review through a report to the IURC, including formal testimony. The IURC’s review is conducted on behalf of the public interest (a balancing of utility and customer interests); it is responsible for resolving any factual disputes that may arise and issuing a final order establishing new rates.

A settlement agreement is possible in any legal proceeding; such an agreement, if reached, would require IURC approval.

Consumers who wish to submit written comments for the case record may do so via the OUCC’s website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm, by email at [email protected], or by mail at Public Comments, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 SOUTH, Indianapolis, IN 46204

The OUCC needs to receive all written consumer comments no later than Jan. 30, 2023, so that it can consider them in preparing its report and file them with the Commission to be included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to either “IURC Cause No. 45802-U” or Fountaintown Gas. Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at 1-888-441-2494.

The OUCC is posting case updates online at www.in.gov/oucc/natural-gas/tips-and-publications/natural-gas-cases-of-note/fountaintown-gas-co.-rates/. Case updates are also available through the agency’s monthly electronic newsletter. Consumers can subscribe at www.in.gov/oucc/news/.