UPDATE: The IURC issued its final rule in this proceeding on Nov. 30, 2005. To view the OUCC news release regarding the final rule, please click here.
The OUCC filed initial comments in this proceeding on Oct. 17, 2005. The OUCC's comments and news release summarizing the agency's filing are available online. In addition, the OUCC filed reply comments on Oct. 31, 2005.
The OUCC distributed the following fact sheet at the agency's public information meeting and IURC public hearing on Oct. 4, 2005 in Indianapolis.
OUCC Fact Sheet
Natural Gas Rulemaking
IURC Cause No. RM 05-03
On August 10, 2005, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) initiated a proceeding (RM 05-03) to modify its administrative rules regarding natural gas customer service rights and responsibilities. The seven-page proposed rule is available on the IURC Website at www.in.gov/iurc/rules/rm0503_081005.pdf and would only affect natural gas utilities under IURC jurisdiction. Key provisions include:
- Deposit requirements: Current rules cap deposits at four months (one-third) of a natural gas customer’s estimated annual bill. The proposed rule would keep the cap at four months if a customer:
- Owes an outstanding bill for service within the last four years,
- Has had more than two delinquent bills in the last year (or more than one delinquent bill if a customer for less than 12 months), or
- Has been disconnected by the utility for nonpayment in the last two years.
However, the proposed rule would lower the cap to two months (one-sixth) of a customer’s estimated annual bill under certain circumstances, including if the customer:
- Is new to the utility, has no credit history with the utility, and meets creditworthiness standards under current state rules,
- Is enrolled in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - and the deposit is being charged during the state disconnection moratorium (Dec. 1 to Mar. 15), or
- Is enrolled in the utility’s budget billing program.
This proposed deposit requirement change would apply only to utilities serving more than 35,000 Indiana customers or any of their affiliates.
- Reconnection charges: Customers who owe deposits of at least $150 could be reconnected by paying an initial installment of $150, with the balance to be fully paid within 12 weeks. Current rules require an initial installment of $70 with an eight-week period for repayment.
- Creditworthiness: Current rules for establishing creditworthiness with utilities would remain unchanged.
- Financial hardship: Current rules require natural gas utilities to make payment arrangements with consumers who contact them and demonstrate legitimate cause including financial hardship. However, customers must make certain commitments, including immediate payment of at least $10 or 10% of the bill (whichever is lower). The proposed rule change would raise the $10 minimum to $25.
- Public safety: The proposed rule clarifies that natural gas utilities would be allowed to disconnect a customer without prior notice if he or she uses a utility’s equipment in a manner that disrupts service to other customers.
The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) - the statutory representative of consumer interests in all proceedings before the IURC - has not yet taken a position or filed comments regarding the proposed rulemaking. The OUCC will file comments following the schedule to be established on October 4.
On October 4, a public hearing on the proposed rulemaking will be held in Indianapolis. At this hearing:
- A procedural schedule will be established, including deadline dates for all interested parties to file written comments.
- Any interested party will be allowed to provide oral or written comments, which will become part of the official evidentiary record considered by the IURC in reaching its final decision. Consumer comments, whether written or oral, are given equal consideration.
- The OUCC will introduce transcripts into the case record from the two public hearings that were held in Rulemaking No. 04-02 (September 22, 2004 in Indianapolis and December 1, 2004 in South Bend). This will ensure that all public comments presented at those hearings will become part of the official record in this proceeding.
Consumers who wish to comment following the public hearing may send written comments to the OUCC by mail, fax or e-mail. Written comments should be received in advance of the OUCC’s filing deadline.
Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC)
- State agency
- Represents the interests of all utility consumers and the general public on issues concerning electric, natural gas, water, sewer and telecommunications utilities
- Staff of accountants, engineers, economists, attorneys, consumer services and support personnel
- Participates in regulatory and legal proceedings
- Provides consumers with a voice in utility policy
- Responds to consumer questions and information needs
Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)
- State agency
- Regulates many, but not all, Indiana utilities
- Regulates utility rates, financing, service territory, quality, etc.
- Required by law to make decisions that balance the interests of utilities and consumers
- Neutral, fact-finding body
- Authority to investigate utility rates and practices
Rulemaking Public Hearing Information
- Conducted by the IURC
- Formal, legal proceeding presided over by an Administrative Law Judge and recorded by a court reporter
- Allows consumers to make sworn written or oral comments on the proposed rules and any relevant issue
- Not a question and answer/discussion format; designed to allow consumer comment (OUCC staff are available before and after the hearing to answer consumer questions)
- Consumers providing oral comments may, at the conclusion of their testimony, be asked questions by the judge or commissioners
- Written and oral comments are part of the official record considered by the IURC in making its decision
- Written comments from consumers and all other interested parties may be filed, pursuant to deadline dates that will be established during the public hearing
- The IURC rulemaking process is governed by Indiana Code 4-22-2 (available on the Internet at www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title4/ar22/ch2.html)
Prepared by the OUCC
100 North Senate Avenue, Room N501
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2215
Voice/TDD (317) 232-2494
Fax (317) 232-5923