Utility seeks rate extension

FILE PHOTOFriday is the deadline to make comments to the state Public Service Commission regarding a rate change requested by St. Lawrence Gas, as well as a proposal for Liberty Utilities Co. to acquire St. Lawrence Gas.

MASSENA — Friday is the deadline to make comments to the state Public Service Commission regarding a rate change requested by St. Lawrence Gas, as well as a proposal for Liberty Utilities Co. to acquire St. Lawrence Gas.

St. Lawrence Gas had filed a proposal on Feb. 26, 2018 that sought to continue a temporary gas revenue surcharge for its Franklin and St. Lawrence counties expansion project for 15 years beyond its scheduled Nov. 25, 2018 expiration. However, a joint proposal submitted to the Public Service Commission does not recommend its renewal.

Then, on March 1, 2018, St. Lawrence Gas and Liberty Utilities filed a joint petition seeking approval of the acquisition of St. Lawrence by Liberty and the issuance of debt related to that acquisition.

The Public Service Commission had held a public hearing in August to take comments on the proposed rate change. The public hearing also provided an opportunity to give comments about the proposed acquisition of St. Lawrence Gas by Liberty Utilities.

The rate change request had not come without some concern. Earlier in 2018, there was an outcry from Brasher residents who hooked up to natural gas when St. Lawrence Gas began its expansion into Franklin County several years ago. Their contract called for a five-year temporary surcharge, which was supposed to end in November.

However, St. Lawrence Gas filed an application in February 2018 requesting approval to extend the development period for the natural gas expansion project into Franklin County for an additional 15 years. That would have allowed them to continue a temporary gas revenue surcharge rather than letting it expire last year.

St. Lawrence Gas officials met with Brasher residents in April 2018 and said they were asking that the surcharge continue for 15 years so they could recoup some of the unanticipated costs they had in bringing natural gas to Franklin County. They had run into unanticipated challenges such as ground conditions that made it difficult to drill.

They said the development period extension would allow the company to continue building its distribution system and provide bill reductions for all of the customers in the expansion area.

Franklin County customers would have seen an increase in the revenue surcharge, but a decrease in the Contribution in Aid of Construction charge on their bills. St. Lawrence County residents in the service areas of the Franklin County expansion project, including Brasher/Winthrop, North Lawrence, Brushton, Malone and Chateaugay would have also seen a reduction.

The Public Service Commission is also taking public comments this week regarding the plan for St. Lawrence Gas to become part of Liberty Utilities Co.

St. Lawrence Gas officials had announced in September 2017 that Liberty Utilities Co., a subsidiary of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., would be buying Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas for $70 million, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

In announcing the sale in 2017, St. Lawrence Gas officials said their customers would see no changes. The company will continue to be in Massena as well as its other locations. They said the majority of the 50 employees at the Massena office would transfer to Liberty Utilities when the sale closed.

Comments regarding the proposed rate change and acquisition of St. Lawrence Gas can be made via the internet or email. They should refer to the case numbers they are commenting on — Case 18-G-0133 for the rate change and Case 18-G-0140 for the sale.

Comments can be made directly by locating the case at www.dps.ny.gov, clicking on “Search,” and entering either “18-G-0133” or “18-G-0140” in the “Search by Case Number” field.

Comments may also be sent by email to the Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, secretary, at secretary@dps.ny.gov, or by mail or delivery to Secretary Burgess at the New York State Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, N.Y. 12223-1350.

Written comments will become part of the record considered by the Public Service Commission.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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