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Two consumers contest Texas Gas Service rates

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 by Jo Clifton

Two Austin consumers told an administrative law judge at the Texas Railroad Commission Tuesday that the commission should not approve a settlement agreement between Texas Gas Service and lawyers for Austin and other Central Texas cities. Consumer and environmental advocate Paul Robbins repeated complaints he has made before City Council; in particular, the fact that Austin Energy and Austin Water customers are not required to pay extra fees in order to expand service to new customers. Instead, builders are required to pay for infrastructure for new customers. Heather Sin, a low-income resident of East Austin, told Judge Dee Marlo Chico that she uses very little gas, yet she is required to pay a monthly fee considerably greater than fees for the amount of gas she uses. She also complained about the difficulty of figuring out the complex rate structure and how to participate in opposing the company’s request for increased funding. “I really hope some regulatory agency would take a look at what’s going on here. It’s really sad,” she said, adding that $25 a month may not seem like much for many people, but for low-income people it is significant. She also complained about a natural disaster rider that the company was trying to add to customers’ bills. However, Kate Norman, attorney for TGS, said the parties did not agree to the rider, so it is not part of the rates. Texas Gas Service has lowered its proposed monthly fee from the current $18.81 a month to $16 a month and Larry Graham, who represents the utility, points out that the company has to maintain its pipelines regardless of the weather and how much gas customers are using. The company is scheduled to go before the three-member Texas Railroad Commission on Aug. 4 for the final decision. Tuesday’s meeting was conducted via Zoom.

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