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The Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) has approved, with modifications, an amended request for an 8.4% rate hike for Southern Connecticut Gas Co. (SGC), which took effect on Jan. 1. SGC serves about 170,000 customers in the Greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas of the state. The modified settlement agreement was reached by the state and several parties, including the Office of Consumer Counsel, the prosecutorial unit of the DPUC, Select Energy Inc. and Amerada Hess Corp. The modified settlement to increase revenue $26.7 million includes $3.1 million annually for conservation and hardship grants to help customers reduce their bills. SGC originally asked for an increase of $34.9 million or 11%, and during the course of the proceedings, prior to settlement negotiations, amended that request, raising it to a total of $39.2 million or 12.3%. The revenue increase will be applied equally to the per-100 cubic feet delivery charge for all firm customers, and bills for all classes of firm customers will increase depending on usage.

Boston-based NSTAR Electric & Gas, which serves 1.4 million power and gas customers in eastern and central Massachusetts, said the Department of Telecommunications and Energy (DTE) has approved a $20 million electric rate cut. As part of the settlement, the reduced rate will be frozen for seven years. The agreement also provides temporary rate relief of $18 million for NSTAR Gas customers, as well as new programs and incentives to improve system performance and customer service. The average NSTAR Electric customer, who would have seen an increase of $1.67 a month under a rate increase, will now realize a savings of 46 cents/month. The average NSTAR Gas customer will save $8.93/month, effective immediately. Other parties to the settlement include the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network. Together with NSTAR and the state, the broad-based coalition reached the settlement as an alternative to an $89 million dollar rate increase for NSTAR. The company has invested more than $2 billion in its system over the last 10 years, however, to provide customers with some rate relief at this time of high energy prices, NSTAR agreed to adopt a non-traditional rate plan.

Aquila Inc., which serves 190,000 natural gas customers in Nebraska, has filed an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) requesting a pilot project for a new pricing option for customers in the state. If approved, customers would have the option to choose a fixed price or the current traditional method for their gas bills. The proposed program will be open to residential customers in all 110 communities served by Aquila and replaces the current Lincoln program. If approved as proposed, the program would be in effect for one year, including the 2006-2007 heating season.

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