Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio Inc. is proposing to charge natural gas customers more than $35 a month regardless of how much natural gas they use.
In its application for a rate increase before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the natural gas provider outlines monthly rates and charges for service. The proposal includes a monthly charge of $35.41 per meter “regardless of usage.”
A state office of consumers advocates is expressing concern about the proposed charge.
“Consumers are challenged by 35 percent poverty in Dayton and by 18 percent food insecurity in Montgomery County,” said J.P. Blackwood, spokesman for the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. “These statistics underscore the problems with Vectren’s proposal for a monthly fixed charge of about $35 for consumers to pay even if they don’t use any natural gas in a month.”
Chase Kelley, a spokeswoman for Vectren, said the company is responsible for some 5,600 miles of pipeline in its Ohio territory. The company must respond to emergencies, and it has invested more than $700 million into infrastructure over the past decade.
As well, she said, natural gas prices remain at historical lows, and customers are still paying less than they once did for natural gas.
"We believe the system modernization warrants this kind of increase," she said.
Michelle Shirer, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Retired Persons in Columbus, said AARP is preparing testimony from about 200 of its members to mail to the PUCO.
“We strongly oppose this change,” Shirer said.
The office said the current fixed charge is $18.37 with an additional $9.25 fixed charge through Vectren’s distribution replacement rider. That leads to a total of $27.62.
This news outlet reached out to Vectren with questions about the proposed rates. This story will be updated when the company responds.
The PUCO recently scheduled public hearings to give customers a chance to express views on Vectren’s proposed rates.
The first local hearing is 6 p.m. today at the Dayton Municipal Building, in the council chambers on the second floor, 101 W. Third St.
Other hearings are set for 6 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Fayette Commission on Aging, 1179 S. Elm Street, Washington, Court House; and 6 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Sidney Municipal Building, council chambers, 201 W. Poplar St.
Those who testify at the local hearings will have their comments added to the case record.
Beyond the proposed minimum monthly charge, a PUCO staff recommendation would have Vectren bills increase by $2.58 a month for customers who use 100 cubic feet of gas.
The PUCO will vote on the Vectren proposal and its staff recommendation after a Dec. 4 evidentiary hearing in Columbus.
Consumers may also submit comments online at www.PUCO.ohio.gov or by mail addressed to the PUCO at 180 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215.
Correspondence should include the case numbers 18-49-GA-ALT, 18-298-GA-AIR,18-299-GA-ALT.