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Gas rate hikes to fund pipeline improvements

POSTED: December 26, 2013 11:57 p.m.

Atlanta Gas Light Co. customers will begin seeing escalating surcharges on their bills in 2015 as the utility embarks on $261 million in statewide improvements over the next four years, including new natural gas pipelines in South Hall County.

Earlier this month, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved agreements for the improvements to AGL’s pipeline distribution system. The cost to ratepayers will be a 48-cent surcharge added to monthly bills starting in January 2015, then an additional 48 cents beginning in January 2016 and 47 cents starting in January 2017.

“These agreements will ensure that adequate distribution system capacity, system pressure and system resources exist to provide safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to every customer in the (AGL) delivery area,” stated a PSC news release.

“This commission realizes that extending and improving the natural gas distribution system is vital to Georgia’s economic development,” commission Chairman Chuck Eaton said. “(The) decision will allow Atlanta Gas Light Co. to extend service to unserved and underserved customers and will promote economic development across our state.”

Among the work that will be done is the “Northeast Metro Project,” which calls for installation of 12.2 miles of 12-inch transmission pipeline starting at the Suwanee tap station in Gwinnett County.

The line will end near the intersection of Friendship, Spout Springs and Thompson Mill roads in Hall County. About 1« miles of the line will be in Hall County, AGL spokeswoman Kristie Swink Benson said.

The Northeast Metro Project, which will cost about $64.2 million, or about $5.3 million per mile, is set to be in service in mid-2017, she added.

Atlanta Gas Light serves more than 16,000 commercial and residential customers in Hall.

The utility also is planning improvements in Dawson, Forsyth, Coweta and Fayette counties in and around metro Atlanta, as well as Liberty County south of Savannah.

The improvements are part of AGL’s Georgia Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement Program, or Georgia STRIDE, “to upgrade and expand our pipeline system, thereby improving our ability to serve our customers with natural gas on peak demand days,” according to the utility’s website.

“All customers will pay the surcharge associated with STRIDE because the system enhancements gained by all four projects ... will benefit all AGL customers,” Benson said.

“This is a big deal, because it helps address what could have been an acute supply issue, if we did not address it now,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber supported AGL’s petition to the PSC, he said.

Officials were concerned about a “shortage issue coming in the next few years when we were looking at adding a large, prospective industry load onto AGL’s service line,” Evans said.

Engineers had said they “weren’t sure they had enough gas in the system to do that without curtailing existing customers, so that was kind of a wake-up call,” he said.

The project ultimately will enable “additional gas service growth for all of Hall County,” Evans said.


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