Your heating bill is expected to go up, but this time it has nothing to do with high energy prices. Atmos Energy is requesting an 8% increase. On Thursday morning, Lubbock City Council members will vote to approve or deny that request. However, as NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire found out, even if the city council denies the request, Atmos could still get their rate increase and your bill will still go up.
A state bill passed in 2003 allows gas companies to ask cities for increases to keep up infrastructure. So even if Lubbock City Council denies Atmos' rate increase, the bill almost ensures they'll get it anyway.
Lubbock City Council must make a decision by Thursday on whether to grant Atmos its rate hike request. However, even if they deny that request Atmos could get it anyway because of a bill which states a company can issue a rate increase "in the utility's monthly customer charge to recover the cost of changes in the investment in service for gas utility services."
Basically, Atmos is taking advantage of a $7 million "infrastructure increase." A NewsChannel 11 investigation in November uncovered what Atmos was using that money for. Three million of it was for moving pipes along the Marsha Sharp Freeway, they also bought laptops and fax machines for offices in Amarillo and Dallas.
Lubbock City Councilman Gary Boren said, "Some of us on the city council have concerns as to the legitimacy of that those expenses that should be charged back to rate payers."
Again because of the legislation, the railroad commission will likely grant Atmos request even if council denies it. That's why council may fight the railroad commission by joining lawsuit with 40 other cities. Before they make that decision a rate expert will testify on the legitimacy of Atmos' proposal. A representative from Atmos is expected to tell council why they are entitled to the increase.
Boren said, "It's going to be our duty to hear both sides and try to get the facts, then we'll make our determination, we have an up or down vote."
Joining the lawsuit against the railroad commission isn't on the agenda, but the council may take action anyway. However, Mayor Marc McDougal said if the city lost, rate payers would pay for Atmos' attorney fees.
Lubbock is not alone in their fight. On Wednesday, the Denton City Council denied Atmos's rate increase request in its city.
City Leaders Stalling Atmos Rate Increase
The Lubbock City Council met behind closed doors to discuss your gas bills. Last month, we told you how your gas bills could be going up and it has nothing to do with the high price of gas. NewsChannel 11's Cecelia Coy talked to two councilmen who are willing to challenge Atmos's request.