KCC approves Black Hills Energy’s rate increase for natural gas

Natural gas rates will be going up for customers of Black Hills Energy, but not nearly as much as the company originally proposed.

Rates will go up by about $3 a year, under a settlement approved Tuesday by the Kansas Corporation Commission.

Commissioner Pat Apple praised the company, KCC staff and the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board for settling the issue without the need for an expensive rate case.

CURB was happy with the outcome, said Niki Christopher, a lawyer with the state agency that represents residential and small-business utility customers.

“It was significantly less of an increase than they would have received had they gotten everything they asked for,” Christopher said.

The company, KCC staff and the CURB reached a settlement in the Black Hills case about a month ago to raise overall rates by about $735,000 from the current level, which equals about $3 a year for the average customer, according to CURB calculations.

That’s less than 15 percent of the $5.1 million net increase the company applied for in April, which would have raised the average bill by $4.17 a month – or about $50 a year.

Black Hills serves about 110,000 customers statewide, including 30,000 in the Wichita area.

Technically, the settlement gives Black Hills an overall increase of $5.23 million. But customers were already paying about $4.5 million of that through special riders on their bills, which the settlement will now roll into the base rates.

In a statement, Black Hills said it filed for an increase to recoup increased operating costs and $51 million in infrastructure and line extension costs.

“Since 2006, for example, Black Hills has installed or replaced 13,000 service lines and 226 miles of pipeline in Kansas,” the statement said. “The typical Black Hills Energy residential customer will continue to receive an entire day of natural gas energy for less than the price of a loaf of bread.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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