by Pam Zubeck
If anybody else confused the base gas rate with the gas cost adjustment, the spin meisters at Colorado Springs Utilities probably would come unglued.
But it's OK for them to get the two mixed up, like they did in this press release issued Wednesday, one day before our story in today's Independent about how Utilities is billing customers for what in essence are interest-free loans.
Here is Utilities' press release:
Good news for Colorado Springs Utilities’ natural gas customers. City Council will vote in October whether to approve a natural gas rate decrease that would go into effect November 1. It would be the fourth natural gas rate reduction this year.
With a recent drop in projected wholesale costs, Springs Utilities is able to increase the Gas Cost Adjustment (GCA) refund to customers. Customers are currently receiving a credit of 8 cents for every CCF (hundred cubic feet) they use. If the current proposal is approved, customers will receive a credit of nearly 15 cents for every CCF. The refund rate is expected to remain in effect through the heating season.
The typical residential customer uses an average of 90 CCF of natural gas per month, October through March. Therefore the 15-cent refund will reduce the typical winter bill by approximately $13 each month compared to last January.
Customers can visit csu.org to get advice to make their home more energy efficient and further lower their bill. Rebates are available for certain efficiency upgrades.
What they don't tell you, but what we DO tell you in our story in today's issue,
is that this money they're preparing to refund is ALREADY OWED TO YOU.
This is not, repeat, not a change to the base gas rate, and that's just the problem, City Councilman Tom Gallagher says in a blog comment today in response to our story.
"This is the reality, if averaged the utility owes $100 to every natural gas customer it serves. By refunding through the GCA, the practice of over-collection never stops because the base rate (where the over collection occurs) never gets adjusted down to where it needs to be. The Utility has been in a perpetual state of over collection since the end of 2008.
Picking the pockets of your customers is wrong no matter how you slice it. Today the Utility is touting a natural gas rate reduction. Refunding money is not the same thing as a rate decrease and to package it that way is disingenuous. Return the money wrongfully collected and set the natural gas rate where it only recovers the cost of service.