PUC approves natural gas rate hike
The Oregon Public Utility Commission recently approved a rate decrease in the wholesale price of natural gas, and a rate increase in the price for consumers as part of an annual rate revision and Corporate Activity Tax (CAT).
The combined adjustments, which become effective Nov. 1, will lead to an overall increase in the price of natural gas for NW Natural customers. The monthly gas bill of residential consumers will see an average increase of 4.22%, commercial consumers an increase of 3.74% and industrial consumers an increase of 0.43%.
"We recognize that authorizing any increase in rates at a time when Oregonians are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic will present challenges for some customers," PUC Chairwoman Megan Decker said. "The PUC has been working in close partnership with utilities and consumer advocates to ensure protections are in place to mitigate these hardships. We encourage customers to reach out to NW Natural to learn about options for assistance."
The PUC approves annual adjustments, known as the Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA), to each regulated natural gas service provider's rates to reflect changes in the actual cost of natural gas. This year, the PUC approved an overall decrease of $25.18 million when compared to 2019.
The rate increases this year reflects the operating costs of utility providers. NW Natural originally proposed an increase of $71.4 million. The PUC eventually approved $45.8 million of that, a 7.4% increase.
The settlement also provides that NW Natural may begin collecting CAT, a new tax on all businesses having a certain level of commercial activity in Oregon, increasing customer rates an additional $3.15 million.
NW Natural's increase in costs is largely driven by moving the company's new operations center, increased operations and maintenance costs, investments in information technology systems and software, replacement of a gas dehydration system, expenses attributable to inflation, work force-related costs, increases in the costs of providing utility service and the collection of the corporate activity tax.
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