PASSING GAS - Dominion Hope Wants Yet Another Increase, One Of Calhoun's Biggest Outfits

(03/23/2005)

By Bob Weaver

If you haven't caught your breath from paying $2.21 a gallon for low-test gas, here comes another natural gas increase from Dominion Hope.

Despite having the highest rates of any large gas utility in the state, Dominion has asked state regulators to approve a 13.2 percent increase in its base rates.

The company recently received an interim increase in its purchased-gas rates that raised rates 27.5 percent.

Billy Jack Gregg, head of the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division, said customers would have to pay an additional $21 a month.

Customers who now pay $164 for 13,000 cubic feet (13 MCF) of gas each month would pay $185 starting in January, he said.

Dominion Hope is the state’s second-largest gas company with about 114,000 customers.

Customer bills for natural gas have two main components — base rates and purchased-gas rates.

The PSC said purchased-gas rates are typically adjusted each year to pass along the cost of gas that the gas utilities buy on the open market. Base rates, which cover employee salaries and pensions, investments in physical plant, repairs and other overhead costs, change only after companies apply to the PSC for an increase.

Gregg said “More than ever it’s important to keep the increase as low as possible because people are paying an all-time high for gas. It’s just inconceivable we would add another increase on top of that.”

Dominion Hope, one of Calhoun's largest extractors over the past 100 years, pays little taxes back to the people of Calhoun County, but their CEO keeps getting raises and their employee benefits keep getting cut.

The CEOs benefits and perks amount to about $8 million, but that is a pittance compared to Massey Coal czar Don Blankenship who gets $14.5 million.

One of the company's unions has tried to get some oversight on how top executives who pay themselves over $1 million keep granting themselves pay raises, with little results.


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