Atmos Energy Rate Hikes in the Works - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Atmos Energy Rate Hikes in the Works

Cities trying to stop 12 percent rate hike



    Atmos Energy wants to increase gas rates for more than 400 cities it serves, but Mesquite is trying to top the rate increase. (Published Monday, May 7, 2012)

    The city of Mesquite is trying to stop a gas rate increase.

    Atmos Energy Corp. filed a statement of intent on Jan. 31, seeking to increase systemwide base rates by $49 million -- or between 11.9 to 13.6 percent.

    Mesquite and 153 other cities in the Atmos Cities Steering Committee are trying to negotiate with the company to lower the rate of increase.

    "The coalition is not looking at denying Atmos a fair rate of return on its investment or to recover its costs," said Ted Chinn, city managing director of administrative services. "We just want to make sure the rates are reasonable and fair to the consumer."

    In addition to the rate increase, the way rates are collected could change, with an increase in the residential fixed-monthly, or customer charge, from $7.50 to $18.00. The company would decrease the consumption charge from $0.25 per 100 cubic feet to $0.07 per cubic feet.

    "Food has gone up, gas has gone up and now something else," Melanie Reyes said. "I feel like they're just out to get our money, and I don't want to deal with it anymore."

    Atmos Energy said it was re-investing in its old infrastructure and pipelines as the cost of doing business.

    "We are seeking the rate increases because of the costs to operate and maintain a safe and reliable natural gas system," Atmos spokesman Ray Granado said. "Atmos Energy is seeking a fair rate of return to continue having a reliable and safe service."

    City leaders will vote on a resolution Monday night that opposes the proposed rate increase.

    If passed, the denial resolution would prevent Atmos' proposed rate increase from automatically taking effect on June 11 and would allow more time to engage in settlement negotiations.

    Mesquite resident Wanda Renfro said she just hopes the rate will not change at all.

    "I think it's going to be difficult for a lot of people," Renfro said.

    The Reyes family's gas bill is always the cheapest, but the family is bracing for some major budget changes.

    "Every little bit counts," Damian Reyes said. "Even if it's a dollar to $2, it does make a big difference."

    If the city approves the denial resolution, Atmos will appeal the denial to the Railroad Commission of Texas, asking it to look over the measure during the next 185 days.