Utility commission weighs natural gas rate increase request

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's Public Utilities Commission is weighing a request from National Grid to raise rates on natural gas for consumers starting Nov. 1.

National Grid is asking to raise rates on natural gas by 7.3% starting on Nov. 1 and extending for a year, the Providence Journal reported Thursday.

That would add about $93 to the annual bill of a typical customer, the newspaper reported. National Grid estimates the total cost of the increase would be more than $31 million over the course of 12 months.

At a virtual hearing Thursday, PUC Chairman Ronald Gerwatowski asked representatives of National Grid whether the company could defer half the cost of the requested increase to mitigate the impact on consumers as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Members of the public commented on the proposed increase, which reflects rising costs that National Grid is allowed to pass on to consumers, but not to profit from, the newspaper reported.

“People shouldn’t need to choose between paying their utility bills and putting food on the table,” said Emma Bouton, of Providence, said during the virtual hearing. “I think it’s time the PUC took a stand and actually protect people during the pandemic.”

“We understand the serious impact the pandemic is having on our customers,” National Grid lawyer Raquel Webster said, according to the newspaper.