Berkshire Gas files for rate hike

Recorder Staff
Thursday, May 17, 2018

Berkshire Gas Company filed for a 4.3 percent increase in its rates Thursday.

The petition filed with the state Department of Public Utilities would increase the company’s annual net operating revenues by $3.1 million.

DPU approval would result in a monthly bill increase of $8.43 for a typical residential heating customer using 136 therms of gas per month during the winter season. The company said it needs the increase to cover “higher operating and maintenance costs, costs associated with federal and state regulatory mandates and costs to upgrade its distribution system since it last filed for a rate change over 15 years ago.” Berkshire Gas was granted a $2.268 million or 4.5 percent increase in 2001.

The hike would also help recover “significant increases” in local property taxes, it said.

In 2001, the DPU also approved a Performance Based Rate Plan that allowed it to increase rates based on the rate of inflation. Since 2002, it hiked rates by a total of 8.49 percent during a period when the aggregate rate of inflation was 35.58 percent.

“Since 2001, the company made substantial investments in gas distribution plant including investments to assure the continuing safety and reliability of its 750-mile distribution system in western Massachusetts,” the company said Thursday in its written statement. “Some of these investments include upgrades and replacements of older, leak-prone infrastructure” as part of a program that has provided public health and safety benefits while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it added.

“We have worked hard over the past 17 years to effectively manage our business and our costs, while placing safety and reliability ahead of all other priorities,” said Berkshire Gas President and Chief Operating Officer Karen Zink. “The fact that we have been able to hold the line on rates since our 2001 filing and since our last rate adjustment in 2011, speaks to the success of our fiscal responsibility and hard work on behalf of our customers.”

Under the proposed rates, low-income customers would be eligible for a 25 percent rate discount.