Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Files Request for Investment in
CANONSBURG, Pa., April 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), filed a request today with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PA PUC) to approve revised rates for further upgrading and replacement of the company's underground natural gas distribution pipelines. If approved, these proposed rate adjustments would not go into effect until 2021.
Columbia Gas is committed to upgrading aging infrastructure and replaces an average of 115 miles of pipeline every year. As part of its long-term plan to modernize and expand its natural gas distribution system, Columbia Gas has invested more than $2.2 billion in Pennsylvania over the past decade and plans to continue to invest in infrastructure replacement for the safety of its communities. Economic development of the 26-county area that Columbia Gas serves benefits greatly from this investment.
This filing is the first rate revision request by Columbia Gas in over two years.
Response to COVID-19
With the communities we serve in mind and in response to COVID-19, Columbia Gas has suspended shutoffs for nonpayment for residential and commercial customers. That suspension will remain in effect until further notice. Columbia Gas offers a wide array of customer assistance and energy efficiency programs that provide resources and tools for customers to save money and energy.
"We want to assist our customers during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Columbia Gas President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Huwar, "With that in mind, we are offering our most flexible payment plans to customers who have been impacted or are experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19, and we are suspending late payment charges until at least June 1."
At all times, Columbia Gas is committed to providing our low-income customers with the tools, resources, and programs to stay safe and warm in their homes. These programs help customers mitigate the impact of a rate adjustment or financial changes due to economic conditions.
Customer Assistance Initiative
In order to assist Columbia Gas's residential customers who are experiencing a loss of income due to the pandemic, but are not eligible to participate in the company's existing assistance programs, Columbia Gas is seeking to implement a temporary program that will provide grants to customers in need. To achieve this, Columbia Gas has filed a petition with the PA PUC requesting authority to use a portion of pipeline penalty credits and refunds that the PA PUC has previously approved for hardship funds, matched by a contribution from the NiSource Charitable Foundation, to fund the grants.
Review Process by PA PUC
Columbia Gas made its decision to file a request for a rate adjustment nearly one year ago, and the company notified the PA PUC in February of its intent to file such a request. While the company filed its request with the PA PUC today, April 24, 2020, it is important to note that after filing for a rate adjustment, the review process by the PA PUC will take approximately nine months. As a result, in this case, any approved and adjusted rates by the PA PUC would not go into effect until 2021.
In today's filing, Columbia Gas is seeking an annual revenue increase of approximately $100.4 million. Approval of the proposal would result in the average total bill for a residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month from Columbia Gas to increase from $87.57 to $103.19 per month, or by 17.84 percent. The total bill for a small commercial customer purchasing 158 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $145.15 to $167.77, or by 15.58 percent. Rates for a small industrial customer purchasing 1,328 therms of gas from Columbia Gas per month would increase from $999.04 to $1,124.93 per month, or by 13.17 percent.
If the request is approved as filed, the total average residential customer bill in 2021 would still be more than 28 percent lower than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation.
How Customers Can Participate in the Rate Review Process
It is important to note that the rate review process is very public. Anyone interested in the case can participate by reaching out to the PUC, and we encourage active involvement by our customers and any interested parties. Customers can participate in the rate review process in multiple ways, including through written comments, attendance at public hearings, and various consumer advocacy organizations that participate in the proceedings.
Customers with questions regarding the proposed rates may call Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332 or visit www.ColumbiaGasPA.com for more information.
"Our nearly 800 fulltime employees and 1,500 contractors are proud of our pipeline replacement program and our ability to continue to serve our valued customers safely and reliably," said Huwar. "We also remain committed to providing a positive customer experience through an educated and trained workforce that is focused on safely meeting or exceeding all federal and state requirements while operating, upgrading and expanding our distribution system."
About Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania delivers clean, affordable, and efficient natural gas to approximately 433,000 customers. With headquarters in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, it is one of NiSource's seven regulated utility companies. NiSource (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 through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. More information about Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and NiSource is available at www.ColumbiaGasPA.com and www.nisource.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 approximately 8,400 employees are focused on safely delivering reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities we serve. NiSource is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability - North America Index and the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index and has been named by Forbes magazine among America's Best Large Employers since 2016. 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 press release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of federal securities laws. Investors and prospective investors should understand that many factors govern whether any forward-looking statement contained herein will be or can be realized. Any one of those factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Examples of forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, statements and expectations regarding NiSource's or any of its subsidiaries' plans, strategies, objectives, expected performance, expenditures, recovery of expenditures through rates, stated on either a consolidated or segment basis, and any and all underlying assumptions and other statements that are other than statements of historical fact. All forward-looking statements are based on assumptions that management believes to be reasonable; however, there can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the projections, forecasts, estimates, and expectations discussed in this press release include, among other things, the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; NiSource's debt obligations; any changes in NiSource's credit rating or the credit rating of certain of NiSource's subsidiaries; 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; NiSource's ability to obtain expected financial or regulatory outcomes; NiSource's ability to adapt to, and manage costs related to, advances in technology; any changes in our assumptions regarding the financial implications of the Greater Lawrence Incident; compliance with the agreements entered into with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts to settle the U.S. Attorney's Office investigation relating to the Greater Lawrence Incident; the pending sale of the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts business, including the terms and closing conditions under the asset purchase agreement; potential incidents and other operating risks associated with our business; our ability to obtain sufficient insurance coverage; the outcome of legal and regulatory proceedings, investigations, incidents, claims and litigation; any damage to NiSource's reputation, including in connection with the Greater Lawrence Incident; compliance with environmental laws and the costs of associated liabilities; fluctuations in demand from residential and commercial customers; economic conditions of certain industries; the success of NIPSCO's electric generation strategy; the price of energy 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; the impact of an aging infrastructure; the impact of climate change; potential cyber-attacks; construction risks and natural gas costs and supply risks; extreme weather conditions; the attraction and retention of a qualified work force; the ability of NiSource's subsidiaries to generate cash; NiSource's ability to manage new initiatives and organizational changes; the performance of third-party suppliers and service providers; changes in the method for determining LIBOR and the potential replacement of the LIBOR benchmark interest rate; and other matters set forth in Item 1A, "Risk Factors" section of NiSource's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019 and in our Current Report on Form 8-K filed on April 8, 2020. A credit rating is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold securities, and may be subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the assigning rating organization. In addition, dividends are subject to board approval. All forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by the foregoing cautionary statements. NiSource expressly disclaims any duty to update, supplement or amend any of its forward-looking statements contained in this press release, whether as a result of new information, subsequent events or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
SOURCE Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc.