A proposed 40 percent increase in the base rate of residential natural gas bills proposed by CenterPoint Energy was delayed for at least 90 days Monday by the Bellaire City Council.
The council joined with the city of Houston and several other area cities in delaying a decision on the company’s proposed $4.25 increase to the base rate. The base rate makes up about 30 to 40 percent of an average customer’s bill, and covers costs of maintaining its network, meter reading, customer, even “postage” CenterPoint spokesman Joe Solito told the council.
Despite the proposed base rate increase, Solito said that falling natural gas prices would result in a net decrease of about $2 per month to most of CenterPoint Energy’s Bellaire customers.
The council unanimously agreed to delay a decision for at least 90 days, which means that the proposed rate increase first will be reviewed by the Texas Railroad Commission. Under state law, the Railroad Commission reviews natural gas rates in rural areas and cities have jurisdiction over rates charged to their residents.
Council members John Jeffery and Phil Nauert questioned CenterPoint’s need for a rate increase.
Nauert noted that the plan includes a provision for cost of service adjustments, which could lead to future rate increases.
Jeffery said it was “almost incredible” for CenterPoint to seek a rate hike during tough economic times.
“What is CenterPoint doing to make sure we get the lowest possible cost of service out there?” Jeffery asked.