Mainers voice concerns over possible 200% price hike for natural gas

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 7:51 AM EDT
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CUMBERLAND, Maine (WMTW) - A public hearing was held in Cumberland Thursday night to discuss a proposed 200 percent distribution rate increase for Summit Natural Gas.

Only a handful of people got up to speak during the public comment period, but their tone was clear: they can’t afford this.

Summit Natural Gas serves over 4,000 customers in Kennebec, Cumberland, Yarmouth and Falmouth.

The proposed rate hike would triple its rates over 7 years. William Harwood, Maine’s public advocate, says Mainers don’t deserve this.

“It shouldn’t be on the backs of the customers to solve the problem that they created by their poor planning,” he said.

Summit cites “rising costs for labor, maintenance and goods and services” as the reason for the hike. The increase would take customers from around $170 a month to around $350 a month over the course of 7 years.

The Office of the Public Advocate says Summit customers already pay the highest natural gas rates in Maine and if the proposed increase is approved, the average Summit monthly bill would be more than 300% above the current rates of the other natural gas utilities in Maine.

Harwood recommends an increase of only 6.5%, calling it “more feasible” and “cost effective to everyone.” If this goes through, Harwood said Mainers might choose another provider

“If they start increasing by more than six and a half percent, they will start losing more and more of their customers to propane and electricity, heat pumps,” Harwood said.

Another public meeting about the proposal is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Public Utilities Commission, 26 Katherine Drive in Hallowell.