Councilman Gerlt opposes change to ATMOS rate review mechanism - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Councilman Gerlt opposes change to ATMOS rate review mechanism

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District 4 Representative Jim Gerlt District 4 Representative Jim Gerlt

The Lubbock City Council is set to discuss the ATMOS Energy rate review mechanism on Thursday during executive session.

Right now, if ATMOS wants a rate increase, they have to approach the large cities in West Texas individually. These include Lubbock, Amarillo, Dalhart and Channing, among others.  The new plan would lump the entire West Texas region together - a plan that District 4 Representative Jim Gerlt doesn't like.

"I don't think it's fair for the people who live in the highly-concentrated areas to have to pay for the people who live in the sparsely-populated areas, where their cost of service is obviously going to be more," Gerlt said. "I think the long term goal is to try and get all the state under one rate review mechanism so that we average out the cost of service for everybody."

This same type of system is already in place in Central Texas and ATMOS Energy says they have had no complaints.

"If this new rate review mechanism goes into place, or all these rate jurisdictions are combined, that's opening Pandora's box. Then we really are losing any type of regulatory mechanism with them," Gerlt said.

Local ATMOS Manager of Public Affairs Miranda Heinrich disagrees with Councilman Gerlt. She says there is no significant charge difference for people who live in the cities compared to rural areas.

She says the bill has three separate charges: A monthly gas service charge which is the same for every customer, a commodity charge which varies by cents on the dollar and the cost of buying gas, which is passed directly on to the customer.

Heinrich says ATMOS officials will meet with representatives from Lubbock, Amarillo and other cities next week to discuss the change.

The last ATMOS rate increase was in October 2012. Lubbock is still challenging that decision.

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