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CPUC Consumer Unit: Southwest Gas Seeking Too Much

The California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) is recommending changes in three general rate case requests by Southwest Gas Corp., it said Thursday. Southwest serves the fringe mountain and desert areas in eastern California.

Las Vegas, NV-based Southwest asked that two increases and a small decrease become effective Jan. 1 when it filed the cases in December. For 2009 the gas-only utility proposed a $7.1 million (12.9%) increase for its Southern California customers; a $117,500 (0.7%) decrease in Northern California, and a $2.11 million (52.2%) increase for its South Lake Tahoe District. DRA's independent review came up with a starkly different recommendation for the CPUC:

Southwest Gas also proposed increases for four subsequent years (2010-2013). For each the DRA recommends either smaller increases or larger decreases than the utility asked for each year.

"DRA's most significant recommendation is a $4.7 million reduction associated with the [utility's] cost of capital, or a reduction of Southwest Gas' targeted profit level, and which constitutes nearly 40% of DRA's adjustments to the utility proposed 2009 revenues," the CPUC division said.

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