Current Tariff

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approves rules and regulations that govern operations and rates of Columbia Gas of Maryland.

See our Tariff for our rules and regulations.

2018 Rate Case Settlement Common Questions

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, the Maryland PSC approved the settlement between us and the parties in our base rate case in support of our continued and significant improvements to our natural gas distribution system. The base rate settlement allows an increase in annual revenues of approximately $3.7 million. The new rates went into effect on November 26, 2018.

What is a base rate case?

We sought approval from the PSC to adjust the system charge and distribution usage charges, which are commonly referred to as base rates.

Unlike most companies, which can change the price of their product/service without outside approval, regulated energy providers—like us—must submit a detailed request to change our base rates. The request includes evidence to support the increase and demonstrate how it benefits customers.

The process—referred to as a regulatory rate review or rate case—must be decided by the Maryland PSC.

Customers have had the opportunity to have a voice in the review process in multiple ways, including through written comments or by attending public hearings. Residential customers are represented throughout the process by the Maryland Office of People's Counsel.

This rate case review is public. All of the documents that were part of this rate case can be found on the PSC’s website here.

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What are base rates?

Base rates generate the revenue needed to recover the costs to repair, upgrade, and operate our natural gas delivery system. This system includes 658 miles of pipelines, regulator stations, meters, and other facilities. This charge is separate from natural gas costs, which generally make up about a third of the total bill. We purchase gas on the wholesale market and, under Maryland law, pass those natural gas costs on to the customer without mark-up or profit.

Base rates are made up of a system charge and a usage-based distribution charge (per therm rate).

  • A system charge is a flat rate customers pay on each bill regardless of how much gas we deliver to their home or business.
  • Distribution usage charge is based on how much gas we deliver to their home or business.

The system charge and the distribution usage charge are the only source of revenue for us. All of our investments in pipes, meters, and all of the expenses that support safe and reliable gas service – including responding to gas-related emergencies – are recovered through the system charge and distribution usage charge.

The Gas Commodity Charge, which is separate from base rate charges, recovers the cost of the natural gas used by a customer. Natural gas costs, which make up about a third of the total bill, are passed through to customers on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Under Maryland law, utilities cannot profit on the gas commodity charge.

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What does this mean for my bill?

Under the new rates that will go into effect on November 26, 2018, the total bill for an average residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month will increase from $76.72 to $82.66, a 7.74 percent increase.

The average total bill for a residential customer will still be about 30 percent lower than it was in 2009, when adjusted for inflation.

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Why do we need to adjust our rates?

As part of our commitment to safety, expedited investments to upgrade aging infrastructure are required to enhance the safe and reliable distribution system that we currently operate.

From 2007 to 2017, we invested over $120 million in the modernization and expansion of its distribution system in Maryland. Of that amount, approximately $80 million was dedicated to replacing 72 miles of priority pipe.

In 2018, we will invest approximately $25.7 million in Maryland, with over $20 million being invested to upgrade aging underground infrastructure.

This settlement represents a reasonable return for our significant investment in Maryland.

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How are we trying to reduce costs for customers?

We are working more efficiently than we have in the past, to reduce cost for customers and improve customer service and satisfaction. We have taken the following steps to save money, and will continue to look for additional ways to make the most cost-effective decisions for our customers:

  • Technological investments, such as investing in Automated Meter Reading technology, to reduce the costs associated with reading meters monthly.
  • Long-term contracts with our pipeline contractors, which ensure affordable and predictable rates for their services.
  • Partnerships with our sister gas distribution companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as our parent company NiSource, to save money through consolidated, in-house services as well as to gain economies of scale through the ordering of supplies, materials, and contractors.

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Don’t we already adjust our rates every quarter?

No, not base rates. Every quarter, we file our quarterly gas cost adjustment for the natural gas commodity portion of your bill. Natural gas costs represent about a third of your total bill. We purchase gas on the wholesale market and, under Maryland law, pass those costs on to the customer without mark-up or profit.

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Why are we requesting this increase so soon after the last rate adjustment?

Safety is our number one priority, and we are committed to our continued investment in the safest possible natural gas delivery system for our customers and communities. We are investing over $20 million to replace aging pipe in 2018 alone. This rate settlement represents a reasonable return for this investment in replacing and upgrading our natural gas distribution system.

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When was the last time we asked to adjust our rates?

We last filed for a rate adjustment in April 2017. The proposed rates were implemented in October 2017.

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I already have trouble paying my bill. What can I do?

We are committed to providing our low-income customers with the tools, resources, and programs to stay safe and warm in their homes. These programs help customers mitigate the impact of a rate adjustment.

  • Budget Plan: Available to all customers, the Budget Plan allows customers to spread yearly bills over twelve months instead of paying your account balance each month, helping to eliminate high winter bills. The budget season starts in May but customers may sign up at any time.
  • Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP): We serve as a link to federal energy assistance funds which provide help with residential heating costs. These energy grants do not have to be repaid by the customer. Enrollment guidelines, which are revised each new heating season, are based on household size and income. MEAP applications are accepted year-round.
  • Utility Service Protection Program (USPP): USPP protects families with low incomes from utility cut-offs and allows MEAP eligible households to enter into a monthly payment program to help stabilize energy bills. MEAP grants are deducted from the estimated annual utility bills, lowering monthly budget payments.  For households with back bills, special agreements are available to arrange for payment on the balance.
  • Heat Share: The Fuel Fund provides energy grants to customers with low incomes for use in offsetting arrears or restoring service to terminated accounts. Heat Share funds are only available to customers who have exhausted all other available energy assistance programs.
  • Low Income Weatherization Program (LIWP): Our Low Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) has partnered with existing weatherization programs in Allegany, Washington and Garrett counties to repair and replace unsafe heating equipment. The county weatherization program is a free program that first identifies an energy usage snapshot of your home and then takes action to seal up areas of heat loss. This program is offered to customers with low incomes and high gas usage. We joined together with the Maryland Office of Weatherization to provide conservation measures designed to achieve affordable, efficient and safe gas usage.

If you are having trouble paying your bill, please contact us at 1-888-460-4332 or learn more on our website.

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Is this rate increase fair to customers?

We view this as a fair and reasonable adjustment of rates for the significant investment in Maryland. Our continued investment enhances the safety and reliability of our natural gas delivery system.

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Are there any customer benefits in this rate filing?

Yes. While this base rate adjustment is focused on making us whole for changes in capital investments, revenues, and expenses since the utility’s last base rate case, customers will continue to benefit from expedited investments in aging infrastructure. We remain committed to providing safe, reliable, and efficient natural gas distribution service and expect to invest over $20 million in 2018 to replace pipelines.

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Is this rate increase fair to customers?

New rates will go into effect November 26, 2018.

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Don’t we include an Infrastructure Replacement and Improvement Surcharge under STRIDE? Why is Columbia Gas asking for this increase along with another surcharge?

The STRIDE mechanism allows us to recover a portion of our costs of replacing aging infrastructure through a monthly surcharge on customers’ bills. By law, however, the residential STRIDE surcharge is capped at $2.00 per month. Our current level of investment in qualifying facilities exceeds that amount.

It is therefore necessary to move investments out of the STRIDE surcharge and into base rates in order to allow continued funding of Columbia Gas’s ongoing infrastructure replacements. The law includes protections to assure that there is no double recovery.

Additionally, the STRIDE surcharge covers only investments in facilities, and not operation and maintenance costs. It is therefore also necessary to adjust base rates to allow Columbia Gas to recover its increased O&M costs.

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Do the new rates take tax reform into account?

Yes. Tax calculations for the new customer rates in this adjustment reflect Maryland law and federal law, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 which was signed into law December 22, 2017.

Additionally, we passed back to customers the difference between taxes collected at the previous federal 34% tax rate versus the new 21% tax rate from January 1, 2018 to March 31, 2018. Residential customers received a credit of $1.91 per month April through October.

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Have an emergency?

If you smell gas, think you have a gas leak, have carbon monoxide symptoms or have some other emergency situation, go outside and call 911 and then call us at 1-888-460-4332.