July 10 is the first day of the Wyoming Public Service Commission public hearing to decide whether to approve Black Hills Energy’s one-year rate hike of 22-percent on Park County residential natural gas customers.
Black Hills Energy said the 22-percent increase will help lower its debts and costs associated with improving the infrastructure in northwest Wyoming for a more efficient service. Black Hills Energy took over the Wyoming Northwest region in 2015. Since then the company has invested $6 million in infrastructure projects.
Denise Parrish, the deputy administrator of the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate, said she asked the energy company about the purpose and need for each investment.
“[I] took a look at a couple of the projects when in Cody, talked to a couple of the contractors that were working on those projects while I was there,” Parrish said. ”And had no reason to recommend anything but an inclusion of those costs in this case, as a result of that.
Initially, Black Hills Energy asked for a 33-percent increase, but it was lowered after negotiating with the Office of Consumer Advocate. Cody Mayor Matt Hall said the energy company is doing a good job taking care of their infrastructure, but he said it’s too big of a financial impact in such a short time period.
“As far as going forward, I guess I can say I can guarantee that people will probably be calling me to talk, to try to figure out ways to mitigate costs to these people,” said Hall.
Hall said he hopes that the Public Service Commission will lower the increase even further or introduce the hike over a longer period of time. The hearing will most likely take at least two days.