SCANA Corp. principal subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G) has filed with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSC) for a 2.53% overall increase in its retail natural gas base rates.

If approved, the $13.4 million rate increase would provide for a 5.66% increase in residential customer rates, a 2.53% hike for small/medium commercial customers and a 1.84% hike for large commercial/industrial customers. SCE&G serves 309,000 customers in South Carolina.

Because the wholesale cost of gas has declined significantly over the past 12 months, residential customers would still pay an average of 67 cents less each month, SCE&G said.

The rate filing was driven primarily by increased costs associated with building, operating and maintaining SCE&G’s system infrastructure, said Marty Phalen, vice president of natural gas operations. “Meeting the growing demand for natural gas in homes and businesses throughout South Carolina requires that we continue making capital investments in our distribution pipeline and related facilities,” he said.

SCE&G is filing for the adjustment under terms of the state’s Natural Gas Rate Stabilization Act. The statute, which took effect in 2005, is designed to reduce customer rate volatility by allowing regulated utilities to recover the costs they incur to expand, improve and maintain infrastructure. The law also works to reduce customer rates when increased revenues cause a utility’s earnings to exceed the return on equity range authorized by the PSC, SCE&G stated.

The information supporting SCE&G’s filing first would be reviewed by the state’s Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS). Once the ORS completes an audit report, anticipated by Sept. 1, the report would be forwarded to the PSC, which would review the filing and audit. If approved, the rate adjustment likely would take effect with the first billing cycle of November, according to SCE&G.

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