St. Lawrence Gas Wants More SurchargesPosted: Updated:
It was a good idea - natural gas service for the towns of Brasher, Stockholm and Lawrence. The new customers would pay for it with five years of bill surcharges.
“Swapping over to natural gas was the right thing to do,” said Mark Peets, Brasher town supervisor.
Now, St. Lawrence Gas wants customers paying surcharges for 15 more years. They were supposed to end this year. The state utility commission is mulling it over.
“Everybody that was a customer was anticipating it would be done in five years. So if you add another 15 years on top of that, even at a reduced rate, it's still a cost people were not expecting,” said Peets.
There have been huge cost overruns on the expansion. It includes some of Franklin County. An original cost estimate of about $23 million has exploded to $70 million.
“We are trying to strike a balance here between providing an immediate benefit to customers and providing an opportunity for the company to recover its capital investment," said Gilles Volpe, Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas general manager.
St. Lawrence Gas has proposed reducing one surcharge. That would reduce overall bills 10 percent.
When natural gas service was first extended, a lot of businesses signed up. Some had to go out and buy new heating or cooking equipment. Now, they're not sure they made the right decision.
Goose Landing owner Lesa Felix says her gas surcharges alone run her hundreds of dollars per month.
“The other business owners are in the same boat. We're just going to have to cut back and it's extra work we're going to have to do to keep ourselves above water,” she said.
A decision is not expected from the state Public Service Commission until early next year.