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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 20, 2007
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, communications manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201
Public Utilities Commission approves NorthWestern Energy rate increase
PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission this week approved a natural gas rate increase for NorthWestern Energy. Average residential customers will see an increase of about 5.8 percent. The company last raised its natural gas rates in December 1999.
The rate of increase was established as part of a settlement agreement between the PUC staff and NorthWestern Energy voted on by the PUC at its regular meeting on Dec.18, 2007. The company filed an application with the PUC on June 1, 2007, to raise natural gas rates by approximately 7.2 percent for the average residential customer. The settlement contains a number of conditions arrived at by the company and the PUC including NorthWestern's agreement to refund insurance revenues the company received for the clean up of the Huron manufactured gas plant for which NorthWestern's natural gas customers had previously paid.
"I am impressed with the negotiations between NorthWestern Energy and the PUC staff that arrived at the final increase," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "A significant component of the settlement agreement is that the company agreed to a three-year rate moratorium. Considering the final increase, compared to what was requested, ratepayers were well represented by the PUC staff," he concluded.
"I and my fellow commissioners have been through rate cases before and they are sometimes difficult," said PUC Vice Chairman Dusty Johnson. "I can't think of anyone who is excited about raising rates. Rising costs are a fact we all deal with and I truly believe this final decision reflects an increase that is fair, just and reasonable," he said.
"I was interested in how residents of Freeman, in particular, are affected as new NorthWestern Energy customers," said PUC Commissioner Steve Kolbeck. "The settlement described how Freeman customers are now paying less for their natural gas since NorthWestern acquired the natural gas distribution system there from the city," he explained.
A team comprised of five analysts and one attorney represented PUC staff in the rate case. Commissioners offered praise to NorthWestern Energy representatives and PUC staff for their thorough examination of the details within the rate case.
MEDIA NOTE: Visit the PUC Web site, www.puc.sd.gov, for more information about this docket. Select "Commission Actions," then "2007 Natural Gas Dockets." Click on the docket titled NG07-013 to access the documents.