A surcharge to fund an Atlanta Gas Light and SCANA Energy gas line project will now run three years longer than projected.
On Tuesday, Georgia’s Public Service Commission voted 4-1 to extend collection of the extra fee, now through 2025. The move allows AGL to collect up to $45 million dollars to build lines to connect to underserved areas. Project supporters say this new phase of the project is needed for economic development.
Last fall, the utility gained PSC approval for the first phase of the program to allow charging upfront for infrastructure improvement. Ratepayers’ bills will climb in increments, eventually capping at a $3.13 -a-month surcharge.
Atlanta Gas Light's Suzanne Sitherwood told GPB in November that in order to keep up with demand for natural gas, bigger pipes are needed around metro Atlanta.
"We’ve had a lot of growth in the metro Atlanta area," says Sitherwood, "and we’ve added, in the last seven years, one million new homes, so we’re constantly trying to manage growth in and around Atlanta and that growth requires infrastructure."
However, a former PSC commissioner says the action this week to extend the length of time to collect surcharges is unfair to consumers. Angela Speir is executive director with Georgia Watch, a leading consumer advocacy group.
"We know with the passage of this yesterday, we know there is a net financial harm to ratepayers. If AGL could have built this economically and they could have proven that in a cost-benefit analysis, they wouldn’t have needed to file this...they could have built it anyway."
The AARP is challenging Atlanta Gas Light and the PSC with a lawsuit, which is still pending. Speir says Georgia Watch will file a brief to join the suit.
Contributors: Melissa Stiers