Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pennsylvania Legislature: Another Surcharge (Natural Gas)

It seems as though there are a ton of added charges, taxes, fees (and any other name you can think of for charging money) on your utility bills.

So first, a simple statement: PLEASE READ YOUR UTILITY BILL!

As is the case with any service provider, be they a credit card company or the local gardener, make sure you understand what you are being charged for.

There are nearly three million gas customers in PA, who are served by a variety of gas utilities. A 2005 study conducted by NEADA found that 47% of LIHEAP recipients had foregone medical care because of high energy bills and 24% resorted to the dangerous use of a stove or oven to heat their homes.

Our legislature (Joe Preston) once asked "how natural gas utilities recover cost if they cannot make a profit from commodity pricing." Natural Gas Industry Hearing, March 22, 2007.

However, utilities make money on pipes and equipment that they install. That is, they make a profit on distribution, not on what they distribute.

And, Joe Preston (D-Allegheny) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington) now have suggested that residential customers pay an additional monthly surcharge to replace natural gas utilities pipes and equipment.

Surcharges, say most consumer advocates, can lead to overcharges and excessive earnings by utilities.

The role of Joe Preston and Tim Solobay is to ensure all consumers have access to the lowest reasonably price gas.

The cost of gas line replacement projects should be included in the utility’s general rates, which would get more scrutiny from the PUC.