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Hearing set for gas rate hike for Atmos Energy
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The Georgia Public Service Commission will hold the final round of public hearings on the Atmos Energy Corp. request for an increase in base rates beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The 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 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.

After Wednesday, the hearings are scheduled to continue if needed on Thursday.

The public is invited to make their views known. The commission will hear public witnesses at the beginning of each day, but will try to accommodate public witnesses throughout the day.

Following any public witnesses, Atmos will present its rebuttal testimony.

The commission is scheduled to make a final decision in this case at a special administrative session on Sept. 17. Any new rates would take effect Sept. 21.

The hearings will be held at The Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville.