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OUCC invites public input on NIPSCO gas plan and rate hikes

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The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) is inviting written comments from Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) customers on the utility’s $713 million plan to improve its natural-gas transmission, distribution and storage infrastructure.

NIPSCO intends to seek incremental gas-rate recovery of the costs as the projects proceed, through a new rate adjustment mechanism, the OUCC said in a statement released today.

The OUCC--the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)--is reviewing the utility’s plan and has not yet taken a position in the pending IURC case.

The OUCC expects to complete its review and file testimony before the IURC on Jan 10.

NIPSCO has filed its request under a new Indiana law (Senate Enrolled Act 560), approved earlier this year, which allows an investor-owned electric or natural gas utility to seek IURC approval of a seven-year infrastructure improvement plan. If that plan is approved, the utility may then adjust rates every six months, subject to IURC and OUCC review, to recover project costs as they are incurred.

Those incremental rate adjustments--under a new Transmission, Distribution, and Storage System Improvement Charge (TDSIC) mechanism--may not exceed 2 percent of the utility’s total retail revenues each year. Meanwhile, 20 percent of the costs must be deferred until the utility’s next base rate case, to be filed before the end of the seven-year period.

NIPSCO’s testimony and exhibits in IURC Cause No. 44403 state the following:

* The proposed projects throughout its natural-gas service territory would be built from 2014 through 2020.

* Those projects would include replacement of aging infrastructure, installation of new transmission mains, the installation of automated valves, and expansion into rural areas currently without natural gas service.

NIPSCO plans to file its first TDSIC natural-gas rate increase request in September 2014, the OUCC said.

If the seven-year plan is approved by the IURC, NIPSCO’s first natural gas TDSIC rate increase of approximately 1.0 percent would take effect in 2015. The annual rate increases from 2016 through 2020 would vary annually, ranging from 1.5 percent to 1.9 percent each year. The average annual percentage increase over the seven-year term is 1.4 percent.

Under the new law’s timing requirements, the IURC must issue a final order on the seven-year plan no later than May 1, 2014.

A group of NIPSCO’s industrial consumers (including ArcelorMittal USA and BP Products North America, Inc.) has formally intervened in this case and is also expected to file testimony on Jan. 10.

For more information on this case and the new law, please visit www.in.gov/oucc/2750.htm

This proposal--referred to by NIPSCO as its Natural Gas Infrastructure Modernization Plan--is separate from the utility’s electric infrastructure plan. For information on NIPSCO’s electric plan and cases, please visit www.in.gov/oucc/2747.htm

Consumers who wish to submit written comments may do so via the OUCC’s website at www.in.gov/oucc/2361.htm or by mail, email, or fax:

* Mail: Consumer Services Staff, Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, 115 W. Washington St., Suite 1500 South, Indianapolis, IN 46204

* email: uccinfo@oucc.IN.gov

* Fax: (317) 232-5923

Written comments the OUCC receives by Jan. 3 will be filed with the IURC and included in the case’s formal evidentiary record. Comments should include the consumer’s name, mailing address, and a reference to “IURC Cause No. 44403.”

Consumers with questions about submitting written comments can contact the OUCC’s consumer services staff toll-free at (888) 441-2494.

Posted 11/7/2013