Atlanta Gas Light Co. (AGL) responded harshly yesterday to a report filed Tuesday by members of the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) adversary staff, heating up an already steamy debate over AGL’s rates.

The staff filed the report as a precursor to a Feb. 3 hearing in which the GPSC is going to hear from both sides concerning accusations that AGL is overcharging customers participating in its gas deregulation program. It included testimony from two utility analysts in the GPSC. Sources close to the situation say the report suggests that by September AGL will have received a total of $300 million from overcharging customers.

An AGL spokesman said utility officials were shocked by the testimony. “I don’t know where they got that from,” said AGL’s Ross Willis. “We just don’t do that. There is something inherently wrong in this world when people can accuse us of such things after we’ve already told them what is going on. We would never hike up the prices on our customers.”

The GPSC is saying that the overcharging is taking place in a new fixed cost the utility added since it deregulated (See Daily GPI, Dec. 23). AGL is arguing the new fixed charge is necessary to recover costs for reservation fees for transportation and storage of gas. It argues the charge is not nearly as severe as the GPSC is making it out to be and the utility is not making any money from the charge.

AGL said it wants to work this problem out with the GPSC and revise its bills by Feb. 1. “The need to find a workable solution for our customers remains our primary goal. Thus we will continue to work cooperatively with the PSC staff to develop an understandable and fair solution for our customers,” the response read.

©Copyright 1999 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved.The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in wholeor in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press,Inc.