Atmos rate hike faces final denial

The Big Spring City Council will meet Tuesday evening — prior to continued budget work sessions — to discuss a number of issues, including final reading of a denial of a proposed rate increase from Atmos Energy’s West Texas Division.The Council voted unanimously July 26 to deny the proposed rate increase from natural gas provider Atmos Energy, saying not only is the rate hike unwarranted, a rate decrease is in order.“On April 1 they filed with the city for an annual increase of $2.9 million. This is their fourth filing under this particular type of rate review mechanism,” City Finance Director Peggy Walker told the council recently. “It does give the city some leeway in negotiating, so we hired someone and they went in and reviewed all of the operating expenses, as well as the revenue classes Atmos currently has. Based on the consultant’s recommendation, she said they are actually over-earning at this point and should have a rate reduction.”Unfortunately, according to Walker, the city can not force Atmos to complete a system-wide rate evaluation in hopes of lowering the company’s Big Spring rates.“The city would like to see Atmos go through a full system-wide rate evaluation. We believe our rates in this area are too high, while some of the prices in the metropolitan areas, Amarillo and Lubbock are considerably lower than ours,” Walker told the council. “So, we would like the full-fledged system-wide rate review, but we can’t force that.“However, by allowing this additional depreciation rate, it is something they will be able to take advantage of and it could push it a little bit in the direction of that rate review so we could get it a little sooner than we normally would.”Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council will consider:• A noticed of revisions to the city’s watering schedule in Stage 3 of the Drought Contingency Plan.• First reading of a resolution approving the city’s investment policy.• Approval of a performance agreement with Big Spring Economic Development Corporation for improvements to the Western Container Facility at McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark.• Approval of of an inter-local agreement between the city and Howard County to provide support for the operation of the Big Spring State Park.For more information on the meetings, contact City Hall at 264-2401.Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at