Energy & Environment

Houston Suburbs Challenge CenterPoint Gas Rate Hike

Last year, CenterPoint Energy agreed to not raise natural gas rates for Houston customers. But while winning concessions, customers in some suburban cities aren’t getting the same break from a deal approved by state regulators.


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Blue flame ignited by gas stove. Photo credit: Carlos Paes/Free Images

CenterPoint Energy was seeking state approval to charge more for natural gas service in a territory outside of Houston including Baytown, Texas City, Sugar Land and Lake Jackson.

“CenterPoint Energy initially sought an approximate $7.1 million dollar division-wide revenue increase,” Cecile Hanna, an Texas administrative law judge on the case, told the Texas Railroad Commission. The commission regulates the natural gas industry.

But as she explained to the regulators, the cities had challenged the rate hike and began negotiating with CenterPoint.

“While it may not be a huge monthly impact on an average customer, from a company perspective it could result in millions of dollars of inappropriate costs being passed on to customers,” said Thomas Brocato, a lawyer with the Gulf Coast Coalition of Cities.

After negotiations with the cities, CenterPoint agreed to cut the hike by a third, down to about $5 million which translates to roughly a dollar-a-month for the average customer.

State regulators approved the deal which can take effect immediately.

In a statement to News 88.7, CenterPoint said this was its first rate hike for the suburban Houston territory since 2011 and that since then it had invested tens of millions of dollars in new gas lines and improvements.

Last year, the City of Houston got CenterPoint to agree to freeze rates for 400,000 Houston customers for three years.

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