Natural Gas Customers to Receive Refunds; Lower Increase Next Year

Natural gas customers in Methuen, Andover and other communities can expect to see their bills drop by a few dollars.

Columbia Gas, formerly known locally as Bay State Gas, has agreed to provide refunds to customers; accept a $13 million cut to its proposed $49.7 million increase beginning in November, 2016; and not seek any additional increases until at least the fall of 2018, according to Attorney General Maura Healey.

“As the ratepayer advocate for the Commonwealth, it is our job to help ensure we get the best possible result for residents and businesses,” said Healey. “This agreement saves customers millions of dollars and puts safeguards in place for those who struggle to pay their energy bills. We will continue to fight for fair rates and require energy companies to justify their increases.”

As of the end of 2014, the company had 13,787 Methuen customers, 7,951 in Andover and 13 Haverhill customers. Haverhill is typically served by National Grid, formerly Keyspan, Boston Gas and Essex County Gas Co.

The settlement, filed with the Department of Public Utilities yesterday, resolves a proceeding before state regulators. It also provides $250,000 in funding to help moderate income residents in need pay their electricity bills. Columbia Gas will use 2016 increases to replace aging infrastructure, improve employee training and hire new employees, Healey’s office said.

Under the agreement, Columbia Gas will contribute $250,000 to the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund—a cooperative effort between sponsoring Massachusetts energy companies and the Salvation Army that provides assistance to residents in temporary crisis who are struggling to pay their energy bills and do not qualify for federal or state energy assistance. The agreement also maintains support for eligible low-income customers through the Arrearage Management Program. To increase safety, Columbia Gas also has agreed to file annual reports describing the additional training the Company provided to workers who failed to receive their annual safety certifications.

Because of refunds due to customers, from November 2015-2016, the average residential heating customer can expect to see a one-year savings of approximately $37. Beginning in November, 2016, the company estimates that a typical residential heating customer’s bills will increase by an average of approximately $7 per month compared to current rates.

One thought on “Natural Gas Customers to Receive Refunds; Lower Increase Next Year

  1. Martha Coakley cut a deal before leaving office that raised utility rates by over 37%!!! This boasting of a deal by Maura Healey is just more political BS!!! A yearly $37 savings isn’t even half of what the average gas customer rate increase was on a ‘monthly’ basis after the latest rate increase.

    Notice not one word about putting safeguards in place to make sure the system isn’t exploited by people like ex-Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua who looked for handouts when they don’t really need them? And why are rate increases being used to hire employees? Is this Healey’s idea of government creating jobs? Another social welfare program of using rate increases to fund unnecessary utility positions? Just more BS as usual…..