Customers of Alabama's largest natural gas distributor are going to see a reduction in their rates starting in the fall.
The Alabama Public Service Commission voted unanimously Tuesday for Alabama Gas to refund $16.5 million to its customers through lower rates between Oct. 1 and March 31. PSC members timed the lower rates to coincide with winter heating bills.
The state's utility regulatory board has scheduled three public meetings to discuss the rates of Alabama Gas. The Public Service Commission says the first meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5 at the PSC hearing room in Montgomery. Meetings are also planned for Sept. 25 and Oct. 9.
The PSC previously held hearings on rates for Mobile Gas and Alabama Power Co. Those meetings resulted in changes to the companies' rate structures. PSC members say consumers should see savings with their bills starting January.
The Alabama Public Service Commission has blocked Commissioner Terry Dunn's request for a formal review of the rate structures for Alabama's three largest investor-owned utilities.
Dunn made a motion Thursday for formal reviews of Alabama Power, Alabama Gas and Mobile Gas, but commissioners Twinkle Cavanaugh and Jeremy Oden said an informal process is the best way to proceed. That will begin later this month with Mobile Gas.
A member of the Public Service Commission says hedging agreements on natural gas prices have added nearly $245 million to the bills of Alabama Gas Corp. customers since the state's largest natural gas distributor started the practice in 2003.
PSC member Terry Dunn said Alabama Gas is one of many utilities that used the risk-management strategy and saw it "go very badly in recent years." He said it points to the need for the PSC to re-examine its rules on hedging agreements.