By PETER HUSSMANN
The Iowa Utilities Board will hold its oral decision meeting in the Black Hills Energy request to increase its natural gas service rates at 9 a.m. Friday at its board room in Des Moines.
On June 8, 2010, Black Hills Energy filed a proposal for a permanent annual revenue increase of approximately $4.7 million (2.9 percent), which if granted would raise monthly bills of residential customers an average of 3.4 percent.
If fully enacted, natural gas rates for an average residential customer would increase about $2.26 per month and $3.65 for the average commercial customer.
In addition to the rate increase, Black Hills is asking for state board approval to make automatic rate increases of up to 36 cents per month for residential customers and up to 90 cents per month for commercial customers.
The company is asking for the increase to cover the cost of improving natural gas delivery systems to the 130 Iowa communities it serves.
Shortly after filing for the permanent rate hike, Black Hills implemented a temporary increase of about 1.6 percent ($2.6 million annual revenue increase) that does not require pre-approval from the Utilities Board.
If the permanent rates granted are less than the temporary rates, customers will receive a refund plus interest for any over collections.
In June of 2009, the Iowa Utilities Board approved a 5.8 percent rate hike that resulted in a $10.4 million annual increase in revenue for the natural gas provider.
The board may consider a motion on Friday to go into closed session as allowed by Iowa law when discussing the decision in a contested case. If closed, it will reopen at a time to be announced by the board and posted to the IUB web site.
This is the second decision in a month by the Utilities Board that impacts the utility rates of Newton residents.
Last month, the IUB denied a portion of Alliant Energy's rate request. The ruling required Alliant to provide refunds to customers and set a three-year freeze on rates.