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Customers of Black Hills Energy may soon be paying a higher monthly bill for their natural gas.  Black Hills is asking the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to approve a rate increase that would up customers bills by $4.17 per month.

“To some, that may not seem like a lot, but for those on fixed incomes like thousands of older Kansans, it can mean that they won’t be able to afford necessary food or medicine,” says AARP Kansas Director Maren Turner.

What is especially concerning to AARP is that the monthly rate increase applies equally to all customers and is not based solely on usage.  Larger households which use more natural gas would pay the same monthly increase as single-person households.

In addition, Black Hills is requesting a 10.6% return on equity. AARP Kansas and older Americans understand that essential services such as utilities cannot be provided resulting in financial loss for corporate entities. However, the rate of return on investment for utilities should be fair and reasonable. Utility providers must remember their responsibility to the public they serve and not just to their investors, especially at a time when many older Kansans on low to moderate incomes are struggling to make financial ends meet.

The return on equity requested by Black Hills is higher than what could be justified by current economic conditions, and higher than the rates granted utilities in other states.

AARP is encouraging customers of Black Hills to let the Kansas Corporation Commission know how the proposed rate increase will impact them and their household budgets.  A public hearing will be held on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence.  Video conferencing technology will be used to allow customers in other parts of the state to observe the hearing and address the Commission.  Those locations are:

Hughes Metro Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. N. in Wichita

Lee Richardson Zoo, 312 E. Finnup Drive, Garden City

Northwest Kansas Technical College, 1209 Harrison Street, Goodland (begins at 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time)

The public hearing will take place in two parts.  First, a question and answer period will allow the public to ask Black Hills representatives and the KCC staff questions pertaining to the proposal.  In the second part, the public will be allowed to make formal statements to members of the Commission or their designated representative.

If you cannot attend the public hearing, you can still express your concerns by submitting written comments to the KCC through September 22, 2014.  Comments regarding the case should reference Docket No. 14-BHCG-502-RTS and should be sent to the KCC, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, 1500 SW Arrowhead Road, Topeka, KS, 66604, or e-mailed to public.affairs@kcc.ks.gov.  Or you can call 1-800-662-0027.

The KCC will conduct an evidentiary hearing on the Black Hills rate increase request on November 12 – 17, 2014 at 9 a.m. in the first floor hearing room at its Topeka office.   The Commission will issue a decision by January 6, 2015.

For more information, visit the KCC’s website.

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