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PSC begins hearing on potential MDU gas rate increase

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Some Montana-Dakota Utilities customers have been upset to see increases on their bills with the pandemic still impacting people and businesses.

Now, another rate case has been taken to the Public Service Commission, giving the commission the power to decide if it’s justified to increase natural gas rates.

Montana-Dakota Utilities serves 115,000 customers in North Dakota, with 99,000 of those being people in residential homes who already have and would continue to feel the brunt of the increase.

If approved, an average increase of more than $60 per year could be added to residential customers’ bills.

“I think about that when I go over and turn the thermostat up, ‘hey how much more is that going to cost me?’” said Bismarck retiree George Simek.

But MDU said they primarily need this rate increase to cover costs for replacing aging infrastructure and enhancing reliability.

Customers are also concerned about the high fixed rate, which is the amount a customer automatically pays even before they turn on and use their gas.

“We have no control over it,” said Simek.

The AARP said that rate is expected to exceed $25.

“We’re already the highest in the region. We shouldn’t continue to be the outlier and continue to push even farther ahead,” said AARP State Director Josh Askvig.

MDU fixed rates in our neighboring states are just $9 in South Dakota and $7.80 in Montana.

“Our overall philosophic belief is that a full fixed fee makes sense,” said MDU President and CEO Nicole Kivisto.

She added customers can still control some of their bill through their usage, up to about 58%.

The Public Service Commission is still hearing arguments on the matter, so their decision will come at a later date.

They’ll continue the hearing live online at psc.nd.gov Thursday morning.

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