Your Gas Bill Is About to Rise

But the money will go to replacing fragile old gas lines — PGW has twice as much "at-risk" pipe as any other regulated gas company in the state.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Here’s the good news: Philadelphia Gas Works has been given permission to make moves that will help it speed its replacement of aging gas lines across the city, hopefully reducing the likelihood of future leaks and explosions.

The less-good news? PGW customers are going to have to pay to make it happen.

The Pennsylvania Utility Commission on Thursday approved a proposal that lets PGW increase the Distribution System Improvement Charge on customer’s bills from 5 percent of the bill to 7.5 percent, in order to speed up the replacement. According to a PUC staff report from last year, that increase should provide the utility with $11.9 million annually, which it can use to increase pipe replacement from 18 miles a year to up to 27 miles per year.

“While increasing the DSIC poses some challenges, particularly to PGW’s low-income customers, it is important to note that both Philadelphia City Council and the Company have expressed an interest in increasing the DSIC to 7.5 percent,” PUC staffers said in the April 2015 report.

“It’s hard to say what that will mean for each customer’s bill,” Robin Tilley, a spokeswoman for PUC, told Philly Mag.

It’s not tough, however, to suggest the increased pace of replacement is needed. According to today’s announcement PGW has twice as much “at-risk” pipe as any other regulated gas company in Pennsylvania – by at least a factor of two. Under the old replacement model, it would take 66 years to replace all aging cast iron and bare steel pipe.

Those old pipes have proven dangerous. They were blamed for a Northeast Philadelphia explosion in 2011 that killed a gas company worker and injured five others.

“It is clear from the record that PGW requires additional funds to more rapidly replace its aging pipe,” PUC Vice Chair Andrew G. Place said in a statement released with the announcement.

State officials said that additional work is needed to address the issue. The rate increase “will not completely resolve the infrastructure problems at PGW,”Commissioner Robert F. Powelson said. “It is only a part of the solution.”