Black Hills Energy, which provides natural gas to north Arkansas residents, has filed a rate review application with the Arkansas Public Service Commission with a request for $44 million. That would translate to an additional $15 a month for the average residential customer.
"We strive to keep bills as low as possible, and we also take very seriously our responsibility to keep our customers safe and warm by providing reliable energy," said Marc Eyre, vice president of operations at Black Hills Energy in Arkansas, in a statement. "The proposed change in our service rates will enable us to continue investing in critical infrastructure and meet the needs of our growing communities, while continuing to prudently manage increased costs to operate a safe and sustainable system and serve customers."
The utility said a typical residential customer customer pays about $74.25 a month.
Total increases depend on rate class, load factors and usage. The $89.56 the average customer would pay a month, if the request is approved, is a 20.62% increase from the average current monthly charge.
Black Hills Energy provides natural gas to Northwest Arkansas and other communities in the northern part of the state like Ozark, Clarksville, Harrison, Mountain Home, Piggot, Blytheville and Osceola -- around 184,000 households in 106 total communities.
The utility said it has invested around $130 million in critical Arkansas infrastructure since 2021, supporting 4,000 new residential customers since 2021 in Northwest Arkansas and industrial customers in northeast Arkansas. Projects have included replacing pipeline with lower-emitting materials and replacing more than 3,300 gas meters since 2019, relocating them to safer locations.
"These investments not only fulfill our obligation to meet our customers' growing energy needs but also allow us to meet regulations governing safety and reliability," said Eyre. "In order to maintain the high level of safety and service our customers rely on, the company must ask the Arkansas Public Service Commission to allow the company to recover costs involved with operating a robust natural gas system."
A utility spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information about specifics behind the needed infrastructural improvements and increased delivery costs.
Should the commission --Arkansas' public utility regulator -- approve the request, new rates would take effect in the fourth quarter of 2024.
The parent company is based in Rapid City, S.D., with 1.33 million natural gas and electricity customers in eight states.