Consumer input sought in proposed 11.5% Southwest Gas rate hike
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - On Monday, Arizona consumers will have the chance to weigh in on a proposed rate hike for Southwest Gas. The utility is proposing an 11.5% rate increase.
“Basically, their shareholders would be earning more money and consumers would be paying more money if Southwest Gas gets their way,” said Diane Brown, the executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group. “It’s important for customers to recognize that we have a chance to make an impact in a rate case. Last year, APS did not get everything they wanted, in part due to citizen outcry.”
There are two different parts of a gas bill: the cost of the gas and the distribution of the gas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest consumer price index, piped gas is up 3.5% over the past month and up 33% year-over-year. There’s also the cost to distribute the gas. That’s what the proposed rate hike would affect, and it would cost the average Arizona household an extra $5.12 per month. Doug Bland, a retired pastor and Southwest Gas customer says he is concerned about what a rate hike would mean for his community.
“I’m very fortunate. I’m very privileged and can afford it, but I’ve got members in my church where I’m a member who can’t afford it,” Bland said. “It will, in a time of steep inflation and when people are still suffering from the results of the pandemic, it’s going to be a burden on them.”
Southwest Gas says a rate hike is necessary to cover infrastructure investments for its 1.1 million residential customers in Arizona. “Our company makes investments in our infrastructure and our system to provide reliable and safe natural gas for our customers. The rate case process is an opportunity for us to recoup the expenditures of those investments,” said Sean Corbett, a spokesperson for Southwest Gas. “The state grew extremely rapidly over the past three years. Natural gas is just simply a product that’s in demand, and new home builders and others with rapid growth are asking for this product and we bring it to them.”
According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, 39 written public comments have been submitted about the rate hike proposal. All are in opposition to it. Corbett says Southwest Gas welcomes input from its customers and acknowledged the financial pressure some are facing. “I have a family. I’m a consumer. You’re a consumer,” Corbett said. “We’re all feeling the bite of inflation and cost of living. We have programs that help customers who might be struggling even with that five dollars.”
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