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Interim rate hike approved for natural gas customers

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Consumers in many metro suburbs, Duluth, and Rochester will see their natural gas bills increase by 4.2 percent following the approval of an interim rate hike by the state's Public Utilities Commission on Thursday.

The Star Tribune reports the increase will impact the 214,000 customers of Minnesota Energy Resources Corp., based in Rosemount. A typical customers of Minnesota’s third-largest natural gas utility will see their monthly bill rise by $3.35 starting in January; that amounts to $40.21 more a year. The company provides service to consumers in 156 Minnesota communities.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the increase on an interim basis while it reviews the company’s request for a $14 million, or 5.5 percent, permanent increase.

It is the third rate hike request from the company since 2008, when rates went up 5.5 percent. In 2010, rates rose 4.1 percent. The newspaper reported that the company says bills are lower today than six years ago, when natural gas prices peaked.

Earlier this month, Xcel Energy was before the PUC requesting a two-phase rate hike, including a 4.6 percent bump in January 2014 and a 5.6 percent hike in January 2015. Those hikes would be on top of a 3.8 percent bump that was approved for 2013.

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