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Public Utilities Commission hears from Summit Natural Gas customers over proposed rate hike

At a hearing Thursday in Cumberland, the Maine Public Utilities Commission got an earful from customers of Summit Natural Gas. The company is asking the PUC to approve a request that could triple its rates over 7 years.

Diane Nichols of Yarmouth was one of about 10 customers there to express her concerns.

"It's a lot," Nichols said. "And it's a significant increase over 7 years, it would be a 300 percent increase. Currently we're paying more for natural gas than any other gas customers in the state of Maine. It's unfair."

Maine Public Advocate Bill Harwood said Summit's business decisions are at the heart of the case.

"They spent a lot of money," Harwood said. "They thought they were going to have 15,000 customers, they have about 5,000 customers. Their revenue is not where they want it to be. And the question is how much should these 5,000 customers be expected to step up and help out the company where their original projections did not work out for them."

Harwood is advocating for a much smaller rate increase. The PUC will hold another hearing about Summit's request on Thursday in Hallowell.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.