Nov. 30—Customers of Mountaineer Gas Company will see an overall 15 percent increase in their monthly bills this winter.
On Monday, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) granted the interim rate hike, but it is a lower one than Mountaineer initially requested earlier this year.
Average monthly bills will rise from the current $143.59 to $165.59. Mountaineer's initial request was for a 38 percent rate hike, according to the PSC.
Hope Gas also was granted a rate hike, this one 28 percent, which will raise customers' average monthly bill from $135.51 to $173.89.
The PSC said the rate hikes are interim and part of the companies' purchased gas cost (PGC) expense increase.
"The commission will continue to review the price of natural gas and the impact of these interim rates and make further adjustments, if necessary, before setting final rates.," the PSC said in the announcement, adding that these rates will be subject to a "true-up" in future rate increase requests.
The commission said that natural gas utilities are required to file PGC cases annually to reflect changes in the purchased gas component of their rates.
"The prices that natural gas utilities pay their suppliers for gas are not regulated by the commission or the federal government, but are determined by the market," according to the PSC. "The commission does examine the gas purchasing practices of gas utilities, reviews the reasonableness of requested increases and ensures the utility did everything possible to obtain a reliable gas supply at the lowest possible market price. The PGC does not include any profit for the company."
Each of West Virginia's natural gas utilities file every year for increases by Aug. 1, Susan Small, a spokesperson for the PSC, said when Mountaineer submitted its initial request for a rate hike.
"These cases come in every year," she said. "There's usually not as much of a change as we're anticipating this year."
Rates increase due to rises in the cost of natural gas. The prices are set by the national market for natural gas, and not by the PSC, Small reiterated.
Mountaineer and Hope/Dominion are the two largest natural gas utility companies in West Virginia, collectively serving almost 89 percent of all natural gas utility customers in the state.
The rate hikes for Mountaineer will impact about 220,000 customers in the counties it serves. Locally, these counties include Mercer, McDowell, Monroe, Summers and Wyoming.
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