The Public Service Commission is holding a formal hearing on MDU’s request for a natural gas rate increase.
Under it, rates would go up 3.3 percent, or about $3.6 million. That means the basic service charge – the cost to bring the gas to the customer – would increase from $19.60 per month to $21.42 -- an increase of $1.82. But MDU is also proposing what it calls the “System Safety and Integrity Program.” It would add another 42 cents a month to a customer's bill. The utility said it would be used to replace some of its aging pipelines without having to file for a full rate case.
"Our infrastructure is not getting any younger," MDU President and CEO Nichole Kivisto testified at that hearing. "We do believe now is the time to implement a mechanism that will provide us the ability to look at pro-actively replacing our aging infrastructure."
AARP-North Dakota -- one of the intervenors in the case -- questioned the need for that additional surcharge.
"The question we have is -- if you're already operating a safe system, why do you want a new charge that can essentially skirt being a part of a larger discussion on how these rates are set?" AARp-North Dakota state director Josh Askvig said in an interview.
The formal hearing will go until Friday. A decision on the final rates will come later.