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PUC to investigate Columbia Gas rate hike request

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The state Public Utility Commission will investigate Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania's rate increase proposal and a plan to implement a new pilot rider program.

Columbia, which has customers in York, Adams and Franklin counties, last month filed a request to increase base rates by $54.1 million — or 11 percent — per year, according to a news release from the PUC. The company said the rate increase would be used to offset the cost of upgrading infrastructure.

Under the company's proposal, the average total bill for a commercial customer per month would increase from $412.47 to $443.88, or 7.6 percent. The average total bill for an industrial customer would increase from $8,201.77 to $8,704.03, or 6.1 percent, according to a news release from Columbia. These figures represent an annual average monthly bill with customers purchasing their gas from Columbia.

The request is suspended for up to seven months and will be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for public hearings and a recommended decision or settlement, according to the PUC. A final decision must be made by Dec. 20.

The pilot rider program proposal would let the cost to consumers for new natural-gas service to be paid over 20 years through a monthly surcharge that would not exceed $35, according to the PUC. Currently, some consumers seeking new natural-gas service from Columbia are required to pay all of the costs upfront.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., provides natural-gas service to approximately 417,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in 26 counties in Pennsylvania.

The company trades shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker NI.

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