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Atmos seeks ability to change rate based on revenue
Gas providers request would cut average annual bill by about $12.50 in 2012
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The sole natural gas provider to Gainesville city residents is seeking an alternative form of regulation in Georgia that would allow the company to change its rates annually based on revenues.

If the state's Public Service Commission approves the request by Atmos Energy this week, customers should see rates go down next year, cutting about $12.50 from the average customer's annual gas costs, according to the commission's public information officer, Bill Edge.

Atmos is the only regulated natural gas company in Georgia that sells gas to retail customers. Currently, the company is fully regulated by the Public Service Commission.

In the last three years, the company has requested two rate increases for its roughly 60,000 customers in Gainesville and the Columbus area, according to Edge. Some 10,000 of those customers are in Hall County.

The request is similar to an arrangement the commission has with Georgia Power, which can raise or reduce its rates to recover fuel costs, Edge said.

The commission will hear Atmos' request at a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the commission office in Atlanta.

Its decision, according to Georgia law that allows for alternative regulation, should be based on whether the plan is designed to produce lower gas rates for customers.

A representative for Atmos did not return a call seeking comment.

If the company's plan receives the commission's blessing, Atmos will file its rate adjustment request each year on Oct. 1, according to documents on the commission's website.

Atmos' annual request will be based on 12 months of revenues. If those revenues are 0.2 percent above or 0.2 percent below the company's historical return on equity, the company can adjust its rates for the following year.

New rates would become effective in February or April.

All changes would eventually have to be approved by the commission, Edge said.

"It's not like they can just raise (the rates) and there's not going to be a commission decision about it," Edge said.

Four other states have similar regulation mechanisms.