- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Customers of Mountaineer Gas and Dominion Hope could see small increases in their monthly bills to fund infrastructure replacement and upgrade programs.

Both companies have asked the Public Service Commission to approve such programs, which include surcharges to pay for projects.

Dominion Hope plans to invest about $158 million over five years in its program. Its proposed surcharge would add 62 cents to a residential customer’s average monthly bill, according to an application the company filed with the PSC on Wednesday.

Mountaineer would invest $75 million over five years in its program. If approved, a residential customer who uses an average of 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas per month would pay an additional 17 cents, the company said in its application, which was filed in July.

Dominion Hope’s proposed projects include replacing mains and distribution lines, and extending mains and related pipelines to unserved areas. Projects proposed by Mountaineer Gas include improvements to mains, automated meter reading devices, regulator stations and other plant equipment.

The programs stem from legislation approved this year aimed at encouraging natural gas utilities to invest capital in infrastructure. The legislation allows natural gas utilities to recover costs associated with infrastructure programs, including depreciation and property taxes, without a general rate case.

Dominion Hope and Mountaineer Gas said the legislation will enable them to accelerate efforts to replace aging infrastructure.

“Aging infrastructure is a national issue, and Mountaineer is not immune from the operational and investment challenges it creates. While Mountaineer has been able to operate and maintain its distribution system in a safe and reliable manner, attrition is a factor with any system,” Thomas D. Westfall, Mountaineer’s director of gas supply and technical services, said in testimony filed with the PSC.

The PSC will hold a two-day evidentiary hearing on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 on Mountaineer’s application.

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This story has been corrected to show the dates of the Mountaineer Gas evidentiary hearings are Oct. 15 and Oct. 16, not next week.

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