PNG wants rate hike; activists plan to protest ahead of public meeting

PNG wants rate hike; activists plan to protest ahead of public meeting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You will be able to learn more about Piedmont Natural Gas wanting to charge you more at a public meeting Wednesday night.

Last month, Channel 9 reported the utility company asked to raise your rates by nine percent.

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Piedmont said that averages out to about $6 a month. The company said it is necessary for system growth, safety upgrades, and infrastructure investments.

If the utilities commission approves Piedmont's proposed rates, they would take effect later this year.

There will be a public meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

Before the meeting, local environmental groups plan to protest outside the courthouse. They said they are upset because they believe the money from the rate hike would help expand natural gas use.

They said Piedmont should be focusing on renewable energy. Their protests will start at 5 p.m.

This is Piedmont's first rate hike request in six years. Many utility companies like Duke Energy ask for increases nearly every year.

North Carolina's Senate Bill 559 would allow utilities and the commission to agree on 3-year plans.

Supporters like Duke said it would help utilities plan better. Critics think it is just another way to hit customers up for more money.

This week, lawmakers added a requirement -- utilities would have to spend extra money on programs for customers who struggle to pay their bills.

If the House passes the bill, that version would go back to the Senate for final changes and approval.