El Paso City Council denies gas company's request to increase rates

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council on Tuesday denied the Texas Gas Company's request to increase rates.

The Texas Gas Company requested the city approve an increase that would amount to an additional $1.55 a month for the average residential customers and $5.01 a month for commercial customers.

According to the company's Manager of Regulatory Affairs, Larry Graham, Texas Gas in 2012, invested $34 million in replacing a pipeline, adding new customers and "keeping the system safe."

Graham said Texas Gas spent about $14 million on replacing several miles of a transmission pipeline but did not immediately specify how the rest of the $34 million was spent on adding customers and keeping the system safe.

"We have very low rates here. We're part of the community. We want to support the city and we're going to continue to operate a safe system but we're disappointed in the council's action today," Graham said.

Graham said the company is going to evaluate whether to repeal the council's decision to the Texas Railroad Commission, which overseas rate increase requests.

Under state law, utilities must ask local municipalities if they want to increase rates. However, in unincorporated areas that are not part of the city,  like El Paso County, it's the Railroad Commission that decides if rate increases are approved.

Graham said the Commission approved the same increase for El Paso County, which means County residents will soon see the increase in their gas bill.

Norman Gordon, the CIty's outside counsel on utility matters, said the Gas company didn't properly comply with the state statute in their filing to the city.

"The company for reasons that I can't explain filed a request for the unincorporated areas earlier this year than they had filed in the past. In the past they had waited to resolve the issues with the city before they filed for the county," said Gordon.

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