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ND regulators begin hearings on MDU natural gas rate hike

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. President and CEO Nicole Kivisto testifies during a North Dakota Public Service Commission hearing on the company's proposed natural gas rate increase Wednesday, May 30. John Hageman / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — North Dakota utility regulators kicked off three days of hearings Wednesday, May 30, over Montana-Dakota Utilities' proposed natural gas rate hike.

The company is proposing a 3.3 percent rate increase, amounting to a $3.6 million annual revenue boost. Residential customers could expect their bills to increase by $1.82 a month, MDU attorney Paul Sanderson said during a Public Service Commission hearing Wednesday.

MDU's natural gas service area includes Bismarck, Minot, Jamestown, Dickinson, Valley City and Devils Lake. It provides natural gas service to about 109,000 customers across the state.

MDU's original proposed rate increase, along with its interim rates, were slashed due to the tax cuts passed by Congress late last year.

Sanderson said MDU needs to hike its rates because of the company's "increased investment in distribution facilities to improve safety and reliability" in its system. About 25 percent of MDU's natural gas system is more than 50 years old, he said.

AARP North Dakota has intervened in the case in opposition to MDU's request. It noted the utility has asked for natural gas rate increases several times in recent years, putting a strain on people with fixed incomes.

"Every dollar matters," said AARP attorney John Coffman.

The Federal Executive Agencies, representing Minot Air Force Base, a major MDU customer, also intervened in the case. It previously warned rate increases could affect the base's military mission.

The PSC isn't expected to make a decision on the rate request for at least a month. Commissioners said they hope to strike a balance.

"We want healthy companies operating in North Dakota, but we also want households that are doing well at the same time," Commissioner Brian Kroshus said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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