November 01, 2022
In a Halloween trick on Ohioans, Columbia Gas of Ohio late Monday announced a stipulation that would charge every customer $56.15 a month regardless of how much or little gas they use.
The current total fixed customer charge is $36.57 per month. The nearly $20-a-month hike will be staggered out over the next five years.
This fixed charge is separate from gas usage, which is also a spiraling cost for Ohio families. The cost of natural gas more than doubled from 38 cents per 100 cubic feet in February 2021 to 79 cents a year later. It is expected to be in that range for this winter.
“There’s no good time for a needless rate hike, but with high gas prices this comes at a particularly devastating time for Ohio families,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney Rob Kelter. “This is a rate hike Ohioans can’t avoid by turning their heat down and living with a little more discomfort. Every Columbia Gas of Ohio customer will see this spike.”
The stipulation, filed as part of a rate case settlement, also lays the groundwork for corporate parent NiSource to gut their energy efficiency programs across Columbia Gas of Ohio’s service area. The utility currently runs a slate of demand side management programs designed to help their customers reduce energy waste.
Under the stipulation, Columbia Gas of Ohio will only continue one of these programs – low-income weatherization.
“These programs save Ohioans money, cut pollution, and make homes safe and comfortable,” said Tom Bullock, executive director of Citizens Utility Board of Ohio, a statewide utility consumer organization. “A smart, efficient home helps customers use less gas and take control of their bills. Columbia touted the benefits of the program until it sold out customers to get its rate hike. Columbia Gas of Ohio should be promoting these programs, not agreeing to slash them in back-room negotiations.”
ELPC and CUB Ohio urge the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to reject the stipulation and plan to file a formal objection over the next few weeks.