Cumberland Times-News

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February 5, 2013

Senate considering natural gas surcharge

Fee would help utilities recover costs for replacing aging pipes

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to allow natural gas companies to ask state regulators to impose a $2 surcharge on monthly gas bills to help recover costs for replacing aging infrastructure.

The House of Delegates advanced a similar measure Monday night.

Lawmakers who support the legislation say companies need to replace aging pipes to address safety concerns. Opponents, however, contend gas companies shouldn’t be asking for extra money to do a job they should have been doing all along.

The charge would have to be approved by the Public Service Commission.

Maryland analysts estimated the surcharge could raise about $36 million a year, if the maximum charge is assessed on all existing gas customers, with about $24.6 million of that coming from residential customers. About $11.4 million would come from non-residential customers.

A report last year by the American Gas Association found that 19 states had mechanisms for full infrastructure cost recovery for gas companies.

Between 2002 and 2011, there were 30 “significant incidents” in Maryland involving problems with pipelines, causing one fatality and 16 injuries, as well as about $12 million in property damage.

The two houses are scheduled to debate the legislation later this week.

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