BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office is opposing a proposed $29.2 million rate increase by Columbia Gas, claiming the company is seeking to pass millions in unnecessary costs, including more than $100,000 in corporate jet travel, on to Massachusetts ratepayers.
Bay State Gas Co. – which does business in the state as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts – provides natural gas service to approximately 295,000 customers across Massachusetts. The company has filed a proposed rate increase of $29.2 million. In a brief filed with the Mass. Department of Public Utilities, the AG’s Office recommends that the utility company not only be denied the increase, but instead cut its rates by $27.9 million.
Coakley’s office also claims that Columbia Gas knowingly failed to disclose to the DPU that it had received permission from the Internal Revenue Service to change its tax accounting, which resulted in a $19 million tax refund. As a result, Coakley said, the 2009 rates set by the DPU were higher than warranted, costing customers $2.2 million per year in overcharges since 2009 – totaling $6.6 million.
“Columbia Gas’ request for a rate increase simply doesn’t pass the ‘common-sense test,’” Coakley said in a statement. “Columbia Gas received a significant rate increase in 2009, and they still have yet to follow through on the upgrades they promised to deliver with those funds. Now they are back seeking to pass more unnecessary costs on to ratepayers.”
The DPU must issue a ruling on Columbia Gas’ rate-hike request by Nov. 1. •