Citizens Energy Group proposes natural gas hike in Westfield

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Residents in Westfield could see their natural gas rates increase by 18% starting next June under a proposal by Citizens Energy Group.

The utility company has filed a request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to hike rates that would result in an increase of $165 annually for a typical residential customer consuming 735 therms per year, according to testimony filed with the IURC.

Officials with Citizens Energy Group say the winter 2021 freeze across Texas and Oklahoma significantly increased natural gas costs for Westfield customers.

“To help mitigate the impact on customers, Citizens spread the costs over a two-year period, as opposed to the more traditional one-year recovery period. In May 2023, all costs from the freeze event will be recovered and will not overlap with the proposed rate increase,” according to a statement from Citizens Energy Group. “It is expected that the proposed rate increase will not take effect before June 2023.”

Citizens Energy Group last received approval to increase natural gas rates in Westfield in April 2017, according to the company, which said it has invested $8.5 million in natural gas infrastructure to support system improvements and the community’s economic development. Officials say that as the system has grown, the costs to operate and maintain the system have also grown, according to testimony provided to the IURC.

Citizens Energy Group also says it has also taken steps to diversify Westfield’s natural gas supply, noting that Panhandle Eastern is the only interstate natural gas pipeline directly supplying Westfield and makes the utility more vulnerable to seasonal changes in natural gas prices.

Citizens Energy Group was granted approval in November 2021 from the IURC to sell natural gas storage service to other utilities, including Westfield. That move would allow the utility to purchase lower-priced gas supply in the summer and store it for use in the winter when the cost of gas supply is typically much higher, according to the company.

Citizens Energy Group warned Westfield residents nearly a year ago that they would see an increase in their natural gas heating bills for the November through March heating season. At the time, the company estimated the total average natural gas bill for the five-month heating season would be $839 compared to approximately $500 the previous winter.

No hearings regarding the proposed rate increase by Citizens Energy Group have been scheduled by the IURC, according to the case filed with the agency.

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