An expert witness testified in support of AARP’s concerns about Montana-Dakota Utilities’ proposal to raise natural gas rates during a North Dakota Public Service Commission technical hearing May 30-June 1.

MDU is asking for a $3.6 million increase applied to residential customers and general service (large commercial users) customers. AARP formally intervened in this rate case allowing us to testify against the rate proposal during the hearing.

AARP raised the following issues with MDU’s proposal:

  • The collection of the increase in rates further increases the fixed charge to customers. When MDU started this process four years ago, the fixed rate charge was only $9 a month. Just two years ago it was doubled. This proposal hikes it to a whopping $21.42 a month, a charge you have to pay before you use any gas at all. This continues to chip away at the portion of the bill customers can control based on the amount of gas they use.
  • It also includes a proposal to adopt a surcharge for safety and integrity programs that would be outside a normal ratemaking process. A hearing like this one is designed to evaluate all aspects of the costs of providing service. As expert witness Scott Rubin testified, “…the company’s proposal for a separate rate mechanism is not needed to ensure the safety and integrity of its system. The company already has in place maintenance, repair, and replacement plans to ensure the safety of its system…”

This is the third time in four years MDU has asked the PSC to increase rates on residential consumers’ natural gas bills. MDU has approximately 100,000 natural gas consumers in 74 communities across the state.  AARP is the only voice for consumers in this process. Previous rate hikes have been reduced by millions of dollars because of AARP’s intervention on behalf of consumers.

The formal technical hearing wrapped up on Friday, June 1. It is expected the Public Service Commission will take a month or more to make a final decision on MDU’s request.