Indiana's state consumer advocate is seeking public comments on NIPSCO's request to undertake $713 million in natural gas system improvements and the cumulative 10 percent rate increase that would pay for them.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor will take all comments received by Jan. 3 and file them with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission as evidence in the case.
The Office of Utility Consumer Counselor will file its own testimony in the case on Jan. 10. NIPSCO industrial customers such as ArcelorMittal USA and BP Products North America also are expected to file testimony.
The rate increases proposed by NIPSCO would pay 80 percent of the improvement project's cost and would be phased in over seven years. The first increase, of about 1 percent, would come in 2015. It would come in the form of a temporary bill surcharge called a "tracker." By 2020, a typical customers bill would be hiked by more than 10 percent due to the increases.
The increases would affect only the natural gas portion of a customer's bill. NIPSCO has filed a separate case in order to undertake improvements in its electric system and the bill increases that would pay for them.
NIPSCO has filed its request for the improvements and rate hike under Senate Bill 560, which was passed in the last session of the Indiana General Assembly. The regulations provided in the bill require that NIPSCO file a rate case sometime during the seven-year improvement plan to recover the other 20 percent of their costs.
NIPSCO wants to use the money to replace aging pipes, install new transmission mains and automated valves and expand service to rural areas.