Docket Number: UG-200568
LACEY, Wash. - State regulators today approved a small rate decrease for Cascade Natural Gas customers, rejecting the company’s proposed $7.4 million revenue increase.
In their order, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission found that the company did not adequately prove the need to increase its revenues.
Additionally, the three-member commission rejected several items the company asked to include in rates where the costs were not yet known, contributing to the revenue decrease.
“The commission acknowledges the critical balance, particularly in these difficult economic times, between the company’s need to make ongoing investments and earn a reasonable return and the needs of customers, many of whom are financially vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the commissioners stated in their order.
A typical residential natural gas customer using 58 therms a month will pay $0.08 less, for an average monthly bill of $57.81, effective May 21.
The commission’s order allowed Cascade to recover 2020 wage increases in rates for both union and non-union employees but excluded 2021 wage increases, stating that the company can resubmit once the costs are known and measurable.
While the commission did not order any changes to Cascade’s low-income assistance programs, they required the company to submit a status report on the existing Washington Energy Assistance Fund (WEAF) by April 1, 2022. The commission also required Cascade to file a disconnection reduction plan within one year, to help prevent customers with growing overdue balances from being disconnected from service once the current COVID-19 ban on disconnection ends on July 31.
The UTC has received eight public comments on Cascade’s rate proposal, all opposed.
Cascade’s last general rate increase was on March 1, 2020.
Parties to the case include the company, UTC staff, the Public Counsel Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, the Alliance of Western Energy Customers, and The Energy Project.
Kennewick-based Cascade Natural Gas Corporation serves almost 220,000 residential and business customers in 68 communities throughout the state, including Aberdeen, Bellingham, Bremerton, Kennewick, Longview, Moses Lake, Mount Vernon, Sunnyside, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, and Yakima.
The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
Editor's note: A copy of the commission's order is available in Docket UG-200568 on the commission's website.