Settlement close in CenterPoint bid to raise rates, sources say

CenterPoint Energy is close to finalizing a settlement in the utility’s move to increase customer charges for natural gas, according to a CenterPoint official and an attorney representing a coalition of cities in the greater Houston area whose residents would be affected by the rate increase.

Thomas Brocato, general counsel for Gulf Coast Coalition of Cities said the parties on Friday reached an agreement in principal, with details still to be hammered out. CenterPoint spokesperson Alicia Dixon confirmed that basic tenets of an agreement on the rate increase were reached Friday but she said no documents have yet been filed.

Neither Brocato nor Dixon disclosed details of what was agreed upon or the amount customer rates would increase.

In November, CenterPoint filed public notice that it intended to increase the rates charged to customers in the Houston area for distribution of natural gas, which would have increased the utility’s revenue by $31 million annually, according to a statement issued by CenterPoint.

According to Missouri City meeting documents, two energy consultants hired by GCCC to review the rate increase found “numerous unreasonable expenses” in CenterPoint’s statement of intent to raise the rates.

CenterPoint in November also filed notice of its intentions to consolidate rates charged to customers in its Houston and Texas Coast divisions.

Sugar Land is part of the Texas Coast division, while Missouri City is part of the Houston division. According to documents reviewed at a Sugar Land City Council meeting in December, average Houston Division residential customers would see an increase of 16.3 percent to the base rate while average residential customers in the Texas Coast Division would see an increase of 5 percent to the base rate.

“Earning a reasonable return on investment is critical to our ability to continue to operate a safe system and to meet the needs of customers now and in the future,” Randy Pryor, a CenterPoint executive, said in a press release.