Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bay State Gas: using less will cost you more

In one of the more ridiculous rationalizations I've seen recently, Bay State Gas Co. says that consumers have used 7% less gas ever since Hurricane Katrina-- so it wants an increase in rates. Well, we use less gas because it costs more. So let me get this straight: it costs more so we use less so it costs more?

Profit, of course, is always the bottom line. Bay State Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indiana-based NISource, and it's true their profits were down a teeny bit from last year: "NiSource's consolidated operating earnings (non-GAAP) for 2007 were $997.9 million, compared to $1,002.0 million in 2006. Schedules 1 and 2 of this news release contain a reconciliation of net operating earnings and operating earnings to GAAP." NiSource

Apparently Bay State Gas filed for the rent increase last October. Mandatory public hearings must have been held, and it slipped by me. They are not usually widely publicized; I wonder why? This year Bay State wants a 5% increase on the distribution portion of our bill, about 30% of the total.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wants state regulators to refuse the increase, which would add to the $24.2 million in increases since 2005.

Protest is not futile. I found this flyer from 2005 when Arise for Social Justice was organizing with other groups across the state. Protests in whatever form have made a difference in the past. Call Coakley at (617) 727-2200 or use the Consumer Hotline number at (617) 727-8400. Send an email to NISource (no number listed) at Call Bay State Gas Co-- they provide no number for consumers other than the automated line, so I'd try calling the numbers provided for businesses:

Vic DeAngelo

Commercial & Industrial 413-781-9200
ext. 2738
Paul Giguere
Key Accounts 413-781-9200
ext. 2142

You can then ask for spokesperson Sheila A. Doiron or as high up the corporate scale as you can get!

Last but not least, don't give up. Talk to your neighbors and get them to call. With the Attorney General on consumers' side, it's not too late to stop or reduce these rate hikes.

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