Nevada’s state consumer advocate has filed a motion with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission urging regulators to reject the commission staff’s latest recommendation to almost double the rate increase requested by Las Vegas-based Southwest Gas Corp. The utility originally asked for a $16.3 million rate increase last June, but the PUC staff increased that total to $30.6 million.

Southwest Gas is seeking different rate hikes for its customers in northern and southern Nevada, and Consumer Advocate Tim Hay is incensed that the PUC staff has suggested the percentage increase in the north go from the utility-requested 2.6% to 9.25%.

The utility and PUC staff rationale for a bigger hike now is to lessen the amount of increases for the next annual gas cost rate adjustment, adding in some prospective rate dollars based on projections for upcoming natural gas wholesale costs.

Alleging that the PUC staff did not properly inform consumers about its change of heart in the pending rate case, Hay said it was “imperative” that ratepayers and the public be adequately informed, arguing if the PUC okayed the new rate hike proposed by the staff the information to customers would be “materially inaccurate” because earlier notices cited the figures proposed by Southwest Gas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

A PUC spokesperson said that earlier in the pending case one of the ratemaking experts from Hay’s office voiced support for using forward projections in setting purchased gas adjustment rates.

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