WESLACO, Texas – While the prices of some commodities have been stable or experiencing a decrease compared to the big increase following the Covid-19 outbreak more than three years ago, one sector of the Rio Grande Valley economy is going to get hit with a new hike.
That is residential customers of Texas Gas Service, a company that bills itself as the third largest natural gas distribution business in the Lone Star State.
The company filed this June 30, a rate case increase with each of the nearly 40 cities it has business with in the Rio Grande Valley Service Area, or RGVSA.
The rate increase will impact residential customers, ranging from $9.68 to $18.14 for small and large homes. The increases will be added to their regular monthly bills.
On the other hand, commercial customers will get decreases of $20.83 to $4.68 for small and larger business, respectively.
The changes will be implemented before the end of this year or in early 2024. Stacey McTaggart, rates and regulatory director with One Gas, a TGS parent company, gave a presentation during the monthly meeting of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Board of Directors, held Wednesday, June 28.
McTaggart said the proposed rate increase was prompted because TGS is seeking $9.8 million in revenues to offset the cost of investing to replace aging pipes, depreciation expenses, ad valorem taxes and employee salaries and benefits, among other things.
Each city is entitled to suspend the implementation of the increase by Aug, 23 and will have 90 days to review the plan. If no action is taken, the increase would go into effect.
McTaggart said no one wants to see increases on their bills but the proposed changes are the result of disparities among users of the utility company.
She said some customers have large houses, some of which have swimming pools while others have smaller ones.
The rates will tailor to each individual user, she said.
TGS said the rates will go into effect on as early as December 2023 billing statements or as late as February 2024 billing statements, depending on the length of the review process.
The cities and the Texas Railroad Commission will review the filing before approving final rates.
In a statement, TGS said: “We will work with customers on available options and financial resources for paying their natural gas bill. Several financial assistance agencies manage available funds for eligible customers who need help paying their utility bills. Our web page TexasGasService.com/CARES is updated regularly with payment resources and information on those agencies.”
Norma Sepulveda, the mayor of the Harlingen and a board member, said she understands the assistance the company is giving to some customers like her, a small business owner.
But she is also concerned about the people she represents, some of which are elderly and on a fixed income and who might run into additional economic hardships such as buying groceries.
TGS is headquartered in Austin. It serves 700,000 customers in Texas and more than 50,000 in the RGV where it employs about 100 people, generating an annual payroll of $4.7 million.
The company has invested more than $180 million in the RGVSA.
Editor’s Note: Credit for the main photo accompanying this news story goes to Texas Gas Service.
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