Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 9, 2014

Few attend Columbia Gas rate hike hearing

— HAGERSTOWN — Only a handful of residents turned out Monday night for a Maryland Public Service Commission public hearing on a proposed Columbia Gas of Maryland $2 monthly surcharge.

Three Columbia Gas customers attended the hearing at Hagerstown Community College to get more information about the surcharge, which would help fund nearly $50 million improvements to gas supply lines. The plan would replace remaining cast-iron and bare-steel piping.

The surcharge, if approved, would go into effect in September and would be added to residential customers’ bills for the remainder of the year, according to PSC Chairman Kevin Hughes.

Higher surcharges are proposed for nonresidential customers, based on usage.

Hughes invited those in attendance to share in testimony to be included in the case.

“Our goal tonight is to listen to your views and to include your testimony in the public record of this case,” Hughes said. Kenneth Mussehl, a Hagerstown resident and Columbia Gas customer, said he attended the meeting because he received an email about the possible surcharge and had questions he wanted answered.

“I just wanted to get an idea,” he said. “I got an email from Columbia Gas about the hearing, and I was wondering how much my bill was going to go up.”

Mussehl said his main concern is the rising cost of his utility bill. “How much is my bill going to up? Especially in the winter time,” he said. “I don’t know all the details, that’s what I’m going to dig into next.”

Columbia Gas filed the current request after the utility’s first application was denied on Jan. 31.

The PSC ruled the initial request did not meet the requirements set by the Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement legislation, which was passed in 2013 by the Maryland General Assembly.

The amended plan was filed April 1.

Russell Bedell, a Columbia Gas spokesman, said no other public hearings have been scheduled on the proposal.

Bedell said the utility will still take questions from customers. The next step will be a ruling on the matter, he said.

“If people have some more specific questions about this proposed surcharge, we do have information on the Columbia Gas website,” he said. “Even though the turnout wasn’t overwhelming, we’re still open to any questions that any consumer may have.”

There are about 33,000 Columbia Gas customers in three Western Maryland counties.

For more information on Columbia Gas of Maryland and the proposed $2 surcharge, visit http://columbiagasmd.com.

This article was distributed by The Associated Press.

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