partlycloudy
Monday July 6th, 2015 4:04PM

AGL wants $275M from its customers for pipeline replacement

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- A utility wants to charge its customers a total of $275 million to replace aging natural gas plastic pipes across the state to improve reliability, although a former regulator says the cost burden falls unfairly on the residential side.

AGL Resources has asked Georgia's Public Service Commission to approve its plan to start replacing 3,320 miles of plastic pipeline installed from the mid-1960s until 1983, the distribution company said in regulatory filings. For starters, the company wants to spend $275 million to replace about 756 miles of the oldest plastic pipelines in its system. Natural gas customers would finance the effort by paying $1.35 per month.

Since Georgia deregulated its natural gas market, AGL Resources serves as the monopoly that owns the distribution pipelines. Companies that sell gas over the system bill their customers for the cost of using AGL's pipelines. AGL is on the cusp of finishing a program to replace early bare steel and cast iron pipes throughout its network, some of which were decades old and decayed while buried in the moist ground.

Now the company is looking to replace old plastic pipeline that regulators say has shown a tendency to become brittle and crack. AGL officials say the replacement program makes financial sense. The utility gets cheaper prices when it pays its contractors to replace large amounts of pipeline at once rather than doing it piece by piece, said David Weaver, vice president of regulatory affairs for AGL Resources. He said fixing pipelines gradually is cheaper than doing rush jobs when a pipe completely fails.

"We can save our customers money in the process as well as eliminate the risk that may come in the future from this older pipe," Weaver said. "I'd rather do it right and do it systematically rather than have an emergency."

As a monopoly, AGL earns a guaranteed return for every dollar it invests in its distribution system. Weaver said he could not immediately answer how much the company would make in profits as part of the replacement program.

Former utility regulator Robert Baker has criticized AGL Resources for charging every customer a flat fee to pay for the program rather than billing customers based on how much natural gas they consume. The result is that residential users will shoulder a higher burden than large industrial customers. AGL officials say all its customers have an equal interest in making sure the distribution system works.

PSC staffers said in regulatory filings that their calculations showed AGL Resources will collect more money from customers in the first year of the program than it spends.

"One of the questions I have is, `Are you getting an interest-free loan from the ratepayers?'" Baker said.

Utility regulators are expected to hear testimony on the issue next month. A final vote has not been scheduled.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Greece enters uncharted territory after referendum 'no' vote
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe's common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for mor...
7:06AM ( 8 hours ago )
Utility drones could inspect equipment, scan for outages
LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — When tornadoes and hurricanes topple power lines in the future, flying drones might be the first to pinpoint the damage.Power companies across the United States are testing whethe...
4:21PM ( 1 day ago )
Lobby of new Brenau physical therapy school named for Ralph & Mary Cleveland
In celebration of a major gift to the Brenau University ForeverGold campaign, the lobby of Brenau's physical therapy school at the Brenau Downtown Center was dedicated Friday in memory of Ralph W. Cleveland and in honor of his wife, Mary Cleveland.
By AccessWDUN staff
2:00PM ( 2 days ago )
USDA to step up bird flu monitoring this fall; aimed at protecting poultry industry
The federal government announced plans Thursday to step up monitoring wild birds for avian influenza this fall to provide an early warning of any resurgence of a disease that devastated poultry farms in the Upper Midwest.
4:25PM ( 3 days ago )
Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 281,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the level of applications is still low and points to an improving job market.The Labor Department says weekly application...
4:15PM ( 3 days ago )