OLYMPIA - Puget Sound Energy's natural gas customers will likely see an overall decrease in their monthly bills this fall under an agreement reached today between the company, state regulators, the Attorney General's Office and industrial users.
The agreement, which must be approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), calls for a 6.6 percent increase in residential rates, reflecting higher gas delivery charges. However, the agreement also calls upon the company to adjust the amount it charges for the natural gas itself to reflect a drop in market price. The exact amount is still undetermined, but the Attorney General's Office expects that cost decrease to more than offset the rate hike.
Bills are expected to decline even further later this year to reflect additional drops in the cost of natural gas.
The proposed rate increase, which would affect PSE's business, industrial and residential consumers, would provide the company with a revenue boost of $35.6 million a year, well below the $82 million the company originally sought to cover its operating costs.
Under state regulations, the company doesn't make money on natural gas itself, it merely passes its cost on to customers.
Nevertheless, the Attorney General's Office believes the overall average 5.8 percent increase in rates for all customer classes - residential, industrial and business -- is justified to allow the company to maintain pace with increasing costs.
The agreement was reached by UTC staff, the Attorney General's Public Counsel section, major industrial gas customer groups and the company, which serves about 613,000 natural gas customers throughout Washington.