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PSC staff advises smaller Atmos Energy rate increase
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The public interest advocacy staff of the Georgia Public Service Commission has recommended that Atmos Energy be granted only one-third of its requested $6.15 million rate increase.

The public interest advocacy staff performs its own rate case analysis to balance the interests of residential, business and commercial customers when regulated utilities request an increase.

The report, which has been filed in the Atmos case, recommends a base rate increase of $2.18 million compared to Atmos’ request for $6.15 million.

Atmos, the major provider of natural gas service in the Gainesville area, is seeking to decouple its fixed costs from the cost of natural gas. Under the proposal, residential customers would see their monthly service charge increase from $7 to $13, while small-business users would see their service charge go from $12 to $20.

The staff proposal would reduce the increase to an average of $1.52 per month.

During its presentation to the public service commission, Atmos cited the loss of customers and a decline in per customer consumption in making its case for a rate hike.

The staff report said that the two factors account for only $1.4 million of the $6.15 million increase.

The staff also disputes Atmos’ method of calculating depreciation and operation and maintenance. The staff said the company used a different method than it did in its rate case in 2005.

The first of the public hearings on the rate increase began June 30 in Atlanta. Hearings have been scheduled in Gainesville on Sept. 3 and 4, when the company will present its rebuttal.

In 2005, the commission rejected a request by Atmos for a $4 million rate increase in Georgia, giving the company only $409,277, or about 38 cents per customer per month. The increase sought by the company that year would have increased bills by $4.52 per month, according to the PSC.

Atmos serves 65,000 customers in Gainesville, Columbus and a portion of Jackson County.

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