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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 8:33 am

Verbatim: NIPSCO seeks rate increase

The Journal Gazette

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. issued the following news release today:

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) has made a request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to increase its natural gas base rates – a change that must go through a thorough regulatory review process that includes opportunities for public input and involvement.

It has been more than 25 years since NIPSCO's base natural gas rates have increased, and in 2010, a regulatory review led to a slight decrease.

Since that time, NIPSCO has regularly been the lowest-cost provider in Indiana – and among the lowest-cost providers in the nation – while improving service to customers.

NIPSCO anticipates that, with the newly proposed rates, it will remain among the lowest-cost providers.

Meanwhile, the cost to comply with state and federal safety standards has increased, and the company has made additional investments in its aging gas system to improve service to 820,000 customers across 32 northern Indiana counties, while maintaining and monitoring more than 17,800 miles of natural gas pipelines.

“In addition to providing affordable natural gas service, customers expect their energy provider to be responsive to their needs, easy to do business with and safe,” said NIPSCO executive vice president and president, Violet Sistovaris. “This proposal seeks to strike the right balance of cost and service in order to continue delivering on our commitments to customers.”

How will customer bills change?

As a regulated energy provider, NIPSCO cannot change any charge without the approval of its state regulatory commission.

NIPSCO is proposing new rates that would be phased in over two steps, with the first occurring in mid-2018 and new rates fully in place by early 2019. A residential customer using 69 therms per month, paying $50 today, would see an overall increase of approximately $10 per month.

The total overall requested increase would be about $143.5 million annually.

NIPSCO GAS RATES

Customers have a voice in the process in multiple ways – through written comments submitted directly to the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, at public field hearings and through various consumer advocacy organizations that participate in the process.

Benefiting customers through improved service

Service to customers has also continued to improve, and NIPSCO's request seeks to further its commitment to customers in several ways, including:

Serving as Indiana's lowest-cost natural gas provider and among the lowest in the nation

Providing faster response times to emergency customer calls

Offering programs to help customers save energy and be more energy efficient

Being among industry leaders for fewest leaks on underground lines

Upgrading and replacing old, vintage underground pipes with more modern materials

Reducing service appointment windows

Continuing to provide bill payment assistance for low-income customers

Replacing customer meters with more advanced meters to help eliminate estimated bills

Continuing to use smart technologies to inspect and detect abnormal pipeline conditions

Managing cost increases

NIPSCO is focused on managing costs to help maintain affordable natural gas service for its customers. Examples of some of the increases and future changes include:

More than $400 million in system upgrades, technology improvements and other investments to increase pipeline safety and reliability, with plans for future investments

Residential monthly customer charge estimated to increase from $11 to $19.50 to reflect more of the actual fixed costs to serve customers regardless of usage

Increased labor and material costs associated with infrastructure and service improvements

Customers can learn more about the request and the regulatory review process by visiting NIPSCO.com/rates.