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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approves rules and regulations that govern operations and rates of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania.

See our tariff for our rules and regulations.

Learn about the rate case process

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Announcer: At Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, we deliver the natural gas you use in so many ways throughout your home. We’re also responsible for maintaining the thousands of miles of pipes through which this gas travels.

We do our best to keep the rates you pay for delivery and maintenance as low as possible. But, like everything, gas pipes deteriorate over time, and eventually need to be replaced or they could become unsafe.

Right now, to keep your gas safely flowing, we’re replacing more than 2,400 miles of older pipes in our system… and big improvement projects like this mean an increase in necessary expenses.

For other businesses… when expenses go up, they can quickly raise prices, and set them wherever they see fit.

We don’t do that.

As a public utility, we must prove that an increase is absolutely necessary. We do this through a formalized process called a “Rate Case,” …which is actually a legal proceeding overseen by the Public Utility Commission.

It relies on input not only from us, but all interested parties—including agencies, organizations, businesses and you, the customer—to determine whether a rate increase is needed and what rate is fair.

Here’s how it works.

We start by supplying thousands of pages of supporting documents, outlining our proposed rates and terms of service, our investments, and expenses such as labor, equipment and major projects, like our pipeline replacement program.

Numerous groups within the Public Utility Commission, and other state agencies, review and consider this information, as well as input from everyone else involved.

They pay special attention to the effect a rate increase would have on customers. Your input is welcome, too, and we’ll notify you of ways to participate.

The entire process takes about nine months, as discussions are held and our case is reviewed and revised many times with the goal of being fair to everyone. As a result, the rates and terms of service ultimately approved by the Public Utility Commission are often different than what was originally requested.

Thanks to their oversight, and input from interested parties like you, you can be sure you’re paying a fair price for the delivery of your natural gas. You’re also paying a fair price for the actual natural gas you use because, by law, it cannot be marked up, and we make no profit on it.

Still, the cost of the natural gas you use makes up approximately half of your bill. So taking these simple steps to improve energy efficiency in your home can help reduce what you pay each month.

If you have any questions about things like ongoing rate cases and projects, you’ll find plenty of information right here on our website. Or you can give us a call. We’re always here to help.

At Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, we’re working hard to safely, reliably and affordably deliver your natural gas—every day.

2020 rate adjustment filing common questions

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania filed a request with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) seeking approval to adjust base rates for distribution service in order to allow for the continued replacement of its natural gas distribution system. These filed rates seek an increase in annual revenues of approximately $100.4 million.

When was the last time Columbia Gas asked to adjust its rates?

Columbia Gas is not raising rates in 2020, and we have not asked the PUC to review our rates in over two years. The most recent base rate adjustment was requested in March 2018.

Columbia Gas continues to invest millions of dollars in its distribution system, and filing a rate adjustment with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission provides Columbia Gas with the opportunity to earn a fair return on its substantial investment in safety.

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Doesn’t Columbia Gas already adjust my rates every quarter?

Not base rates. Every quarter, we file our quarterly gas cost adjustment for the natural gas commodity portion of your bill. Natural gas costs represent about a third of your total bill. We purchase our gas on the wholesale market and, under Pennsylvania law, pass those costs on to the customer without mark-up or profit. 

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Is this rate increase fair to Columbia Gas customers?

Columbia Gas views this as a fair and reasonable request to adjust rates for the significant investment in Pennsylvania. Our continued investment enhances the safety and reliability of our natural gas delivery system.

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How is Columbia Gas trying to reduce costs for customers?

Columbia Gas continues to focus on working efficiently. We have taken the following steps to save money and will continue to look for additional ways to make the most cost-effective decisions for our customers:

  • Technological investments, such as investing in Automated Meter Reading technology, to reduce the costs associated with reading meters manually.
  • Long-term contracts with our pipeline contractors, which ensure affordable and predictable rates for their services.
  • Partnerships with our sister gas distribution companies in Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia, as well as our parent company NiSource, to save money through consolidated, in-house services as well as to gain economies of scale through the ordering of supplies, materials, and contractors.

Our approach is working. If the PUC approves the company’s request as filed, the average total bill for a residential customer in 2021 will still be more than 28 percent lower than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation.

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Why does Columbia Gas need to adjust its rates?

In order to continue to provide safe, affordable and reliable natural gas service, we must invest in our system to upgrade aging infrastructure, just as investments are made in bridges, roads and other infrastructure in our cities, towns and communities.

From 2007 to 2019, we invested over $2.2 billion to modernize and expand our natural gas distribution system in Pennsylvania. Of that amount, approximately $1.6 billion was dedicated to replacing over 1,085 miles of priority pipe. 

In 2020 alone, we plan to invest $319 million in Pennsylvania, with more than $240 million dedicated to upgrading aging underground infrastructure throughout the 26 Pennsylvania counties where we provide natural gas service.

This filing is needed to pay for our significant safety investment in Pennsylvania.

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What are the customer benefits in this rate request?

Infrastructure Upgrades. We are enhancing the safety of our system through our pipeline replacement program. We will continue to be a leader in pipeline replacement in Pennsylvania and invest millions of dollars each year to replace aging distribution pipelines. We remain committed to providing safe, reliable, and efficient natural gas distribution service, and we plan to dedicate more than $240 million in 2020 just to replace aging infrastructure.

System Reliability. Upgrades to the system with plastic and cathodically protected steel pipe not only maintain safety, but also provide an upgraded system design ensuring more reliable service during extreme cold temperatures. The new system also provides more flexibility in adding new, high efficiency equipment and allows for the installation of smaller, less expensive interior piping system for customers.

Pipeline Maintenance Enhancements. System maintenance practices will further improve the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas, such as enhanced training (including a new training facility that opened in mid-2016) and system improvements to reduce the amount of damage done to our distribution facilities by external parties, the number one risk to the safety of our system.

Job Creation. Our pipeline replacement program is adding jobs, both full-time employees (engineers, engineering technicians, land agents and construction inspectors) as well as contractors who perform the actual pipe replacement (including laborers, equipment operators, crew leaders and support staff), and associated support services such as paving, traffic control, trucking, sand and gravel and a myriad of other material purchases and support activities.

We take our commitment to our local communities seriously, and we are proud of the nearly 800 full-time employees and 1,500 contractors across the state of Pennsylvania who comprise the Columbia Gas team.

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What are base rates?

Base rates generate the revenue needed to recover the costs to repair, upgrade, and operate Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania’s natural gas delivery system. This system includes approximately 7,500 miles of pipelines, regulator stations, meters and other facilities. This charge is separate from natural gas commodity costs, which generally make up about a third of the total bill. As a regulated utility, Columbia Gas purchases gas on the wholesale market and, under Pennsylvania law, passes those natural gas costs on to the customer without mark-up or profit. 

Base rates are made up of a customer charge and a usage-based distribution charge (per therm rate). Columbia Gas’s base rates also include a Weather Normalization Adjustment (WNA). 

  • The customer charge is a flat rate customers pay on each bill regardless of how much gas Columbia Gas delivers to their home or business. 
  • The distribution usage charge is based on how much gas Columbia Gas delivers to their home or business. 
  • A WNA is an adjustment on the distribution portion of a customer’s bill to reflect normal weather levels if temperatures are 3% greater or 3% lower than normal during the winter heating season.

The Gas Commodity Charge, which is separate from base rate charges, recovers the cost of the natural gas used by a customer. Natural gas costs, which make up around a third of the total bill, are passed through to customers on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Under Pennsylvania law, utilities cannot profit on the gas commodity charge.

The customer charge and the distribution usage charge are the only source of revenue for Columbia Gas. All of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania’s investments in pipes, meters and all of its expenses that support safe and reliable gas service – including responding to gas-related emergencies – are recovered through the customer charge and distribution usage charge.

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What does this mean for a customer’s bill?

If our proposed adjustment is approved by the PUC, the average total bill for a residential customer who purchases 70 therms of gas per month from Columbia Gas would increase from $87.57 to $103.19 per month, or by 17.84 percent.

If implemented as proposed, it is important to note that when adjusted for inflation, the total average residential bill in 2021 would still be over 28 percent lower than it was in 2010.

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What is a base rate case?

Columbia Gas is seeking approval from the PUC to adjust the customer charge and distribution usage charges, which are commonly referred to as base rates.

Unlike most companies, which can change the price of their product/service without outside approval, regulated energy providers—like Columbia Gas—must submit a detailed request to change their base rates. The request includes evidence to support the increase and demonstrate how it benefits customers.

The process—referred to as a regulatory rate review or rate case—must be decided by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Customers have a voice in the review process in multiple ways, including through written comments, public hearings, and various consumer advocacy organizations that participate in the proceedings.

This rate case review is very public. All of the documents that are part of this rate case can be found on the PUC's website here. The Docket Number for this rate case is R-2020-3018835.

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When will this adjustment impact my bill?

As noted earlier, in a general rate proceeding such as this, it could take the PUC up to 9 months to review the filing and issue a formal order, with the new rates effective in 2021.

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What about customers who don’t currently qualify for those assistance programs?

In order to assist Columbia Gas’s residential customers who are experiencing a loss of income due to the pandemic, but are not eligible to participate in the company’s existing assistance programs, Columbia Gas is seeking to implement a temporary program that will provide grants to customers in need.

To achieve this, Columbia Gas has filed a petition with the PA PUC requesting authority to use a portion of pipeline penalty credits that the PA PUC has previously approved for hardship funds, matched by a contribution from the NiSource Charitable Foundation, to fund the grants.

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How can I get involved?

Customers can reach out to the PUC. Information on how to get involved is included in our public notice in newspapers, and will also be included in all customer bills beginning on April 24.

All of the documents that are part of this rate case can be found on the PUC’s website here. The Docket Number for this rate case is R-2020-3018835.

Anyone interested in the case can participate in the process. We have an extensive customer outreach program designed to communicate what we are filing and why. Please be sure to watch our videos about our pipeline replacement program and rate case process for additional program information.

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What do you mean by aging infrastructure? Are we safe?

Yes, our system is safe, as evidenced by our ability to address leaks appropriately, as well as other operational improvements including more frequent leakage surveys and better emergency leak response. However, we must be a prudent operator and address the systemic replacement of our unprotected bare steel, cast iron, and wrought iron facilities.

After decades of providing service to our parents and grandparents, some of our pipes must be replaced to ensure continued safe and reliable service. These pipelines served us well, but it has come to the point where it is more cost effective for us to replace the pipe now, rather than repair the pipe only to replace it in the near future. Much like other types of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, deterioration occurs over time and repairs or replacement are eventually needed.

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With the financial concerns people have due to the COVID-19 pandemic, why are you asking to raise rates? What about customers who have trouble paying their bills?

Columbia Gas is not raising rates in 2020, and we have not asked the PUC to review our rates in over two years.

Preparation for the filing began nearly a year ago, and it provides a significant amount of information that is required by the PUC. Columbia Gas filed a Notice of Intent with the PUC on February 19. After that Notice, filing the case is the next step in the regulatory process for determining rates.

The PUC determines what Columbia Gas’s rates will be. The review process will take an additional 9 months after this filing, and new rates approved by the PUC would not go into effect until 2021.

The decision to file for this rate adjustment was not made lightly. We have a responsibility to continue the safe and reliable operation of our system, and that includes assessing the financial need to continue our critical infrastructure replacement program and identify additional system risks while maintaining the safe operations of our system across our entire service area.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia Gas has suspended shutoffs for nonpayment for residential and commercial customers, and that will remain in effect until further notice. 

In addition, we are offering our most flexible pay plans to customers impacted or experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19 to spread the balance due across multiple months.

Columbia Gas is suspending late payment charges until June 1, 2020 and will assess the need to extend this deadline. We will continue to monitor current events and identify opportunities to support our customers and communities.

At all times, Columbia Gas is committed to providing our low-income customers with the tools, resources, and programs to stay safe and warm in their homes. These programs help customers mitigate the impact of a rate adjustment or financial changes due to economic conditions.

Budget Payment Plan - Available to all Columbia Gas customers, the Budget Payment Plan allows customers to spread annual bills evenly across the year instead of paying account balances each month, helping to eliminate high winter bills. The budget year begins in May, but customers can enroll any time during the year. 

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - Columbia Gas serves as a link to federal energy assistance funds which provide help with residential heating costs. These energy grants do not have to be repaid by the customer. Enrollment guidelines, which are revised each new heating season, are based on household size and income. 

Customer Assistance Program (CAP) - The Customer Assistance Program offers affordable payment plans for residential customers with low incomes and long-term bill payment difficulties. CAP features reduced monthly payments for current bills for income-eligible customers, as well as debt forgiveness for prior balances. 

Customer Assistance, Referral & Evaluation Services (CARES) - The CARES program helps customers who have a true inability to pay their utility bills and are facing additional challenges.

Dollar Energy Fund - The Dollar Energy Fund is an independent, non-profit organization that provides assistance to people who are on low or fixed incomes.

WarmWise: Low Income Usage Reduction Program - Formally called “Warm Choice,” Columbia’s Low Income Usage Reduction Program (LIURP) provides income-eligible customers with no-charge home weatherization assistance to help reduce annual heating costs. LIURP identifies improved home weatherization opportunities in the home and then installs the most cost effective measures to reduce consumption. 

WarmWise: Audits & Rebates - Audits & Rebates offers a free, comprehensive in-home energy audit identifying and recommending energy saving improvements throughout the home to income-qualified customers. Customers can also choose to take advantage of rebates for energy saving improvements. 

Crisis – Emergency Energy Assistance - A component of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Crisis Emergency Energy Assistance provides funds for customers in emergency situations and who are in danger of losing their heat.

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Have an emergency?

If you smell gas, think you have a gas leak, have carbon monoxide symptoms or have some other emergency situation, go outside and call 911 and then call us at 1-888-460-4332.