Monday night, the first of four public hearings was held at the West Virginia Public Service Commission in downtown Charleston concerning a proposed gas rate increase. The hearing was a time for Mountaineer Gas customers to voice their opinion.
Although the room wasn’t filled to maximum capacity, those who were present made their voices heard.
Mountaineer Gas customer Ron Jones says this proposed increase is unwarranted. He said if anything, rates should go down as a result of the low prices of natural gas.
"Mountaineer, over the last twenty years, has had increase after increase after increase and this doesn’t make common sense," says Jones.
The proposed increase would amount to an additional $3.40 per month for a $41 dollar annual total for customers.
AARP Associate State Director in Communications Tom Hunter says this is a significant pocket book issue for those living on a fixed income. He says senior citizens will probably take the biggest hit.
"Now with an additional increase, coupled with increases in food costs and prescription drug costs," says Hunter. "Any little increase will have a significant impact."
Mountaineer Gas officials were not willing to answer questions during the hearing, just hear comments from residents, even though questions were asked.
Hunter wondered if this increase was even warranted at this time because natural gas prices are so low.
"You have to question the timing for asking for a $12 million dollar increase at a time when the market for natural gas is relatively stable," says Hunter.
Jones says the reason Mountaineer Gas wants this increase is to make up for the low income winter they had due to a mild year. He says it’s all about greed.
The next public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, July 5 at the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington at 6:30. Two other hearings are planned for July 6th and July 12th in Wheeling and Beckley.
After the hearings are complete, the PSC will hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter scheduled for July 17th – July 19th.