The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 1, 1998 · Page 3
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 3

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, April 1, 1998
Page 3
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SALINA JOURNAL GREAT PLAINS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 1998 ^NATURAL GAS pas rate hike could hit western Kansans hard -•*V; - 1 Utility bills could climb by 25 percent under request from supplier of Midwest Energy By CAROL CRUPPER • tfarris News Service ;; ; Natural gas customers in parts of cen- .traland western Kansas could see a 20 to 26 percent increase in their utility bills if '.tSs federal government approves a rate 'hike for KN Interstate Gas Transmission 'Co.. !\ That's the calculation from the Kansas ; Corporation Commission, which is intervening in the case on behalf of state : ratepayers. ; "It is a substantial rate increase request," said Rosemary Foreman, director of public affairs for the commission. Foreman said customers of Midwest Energy — including current customers of KN Energy — would be hardest hit. T LEGISLATURE Midwest, headquartered in Hays, provides retail service to some 12,000 natural gas customers. But Midwest is in the process of buying KN — a contract that will add 30,000 customers. People's Natural Gas might feel some of the fallout, Foreman said. Gas retail companies buy supplies from pipeline firms that transport it from the fields. Walker Hendrix, consumer counsel for the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, said he was taken aback at a proposed transportation rate twice what it is now. He said it doesn't seem right for people in western Kansas, where much of that gas is produced, to bear such expense. "We're very concerned about how costs would be proportioned to individual customers," said Dave Dittemore, director of utilities for the Kansas Corporation Commission. Gas transportation costs lie exclusively under federal regulation. KNI filed its request Jan. 23 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Kansas Corporation Commission filed as an intervenor Feb. 3. Midwest also has filed as an inter- venor, said Bill Bowling, energy and transmissions operations manager for Midwest. His company buys most of its gas from KNI. Bowling said Midwest is always concerned with price adjustments that could affect its customers, but he's not sure a 20 to 25 percent hike would be the result. His company is studying the issue and preparing for the March 1999 federal hearing. The Kansas Corporation Commission also is attempting to gather facts. But, Bittemore said. "We haven't gotten the green light to begin asking detailed questions." The whole process could take two years. Cases grind slowly at the federal level, Bittemore said. He said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could put a rate into effect in advance of a final ruling — perhaps as early as five months from now — making any increase subject to possible refunds. In a letter to federal officials, KNI cited increased transportation costs. It noted expenses of acquiring the Pony Express Pipeline and converting it to natural gas use. That line runs from Wyoming, through southern Nebraska and northern Kansas. It used to transport crude oil, Bowling said. KNI cited other construction and operation costs. It noted rates would "continue to reflect discount adjustments commensurate with the level of discounting that KNI must continue to provide to attract and maintain load on its system." The pipeline firm stated, "The pro- posed rates are based on a filed cost of service that reflects an underlying rate of return on common equity of 12.75 percent." Bittemore said returns on equity that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been approving have been less than that. > Rep. Bennis McKinney, D-Greensburg y said gas prices catch consumers in a halfway-regulated world. ." "We deregulate purchases for the largest customers, but we have not yet allowed small customers who buy gas to^ make forward contracts," he said. Members of the Legislature continue to study deregulation issues that could affect how customers receive and pay for utilities. In the meantime, the Kansas Corpora-' tion Commission said it will work hard ' to fight this rate proposal. ^ "We intend to be very very active at ^ the federal level," Foreman said. Lloyd honored by legislators; tax relief on homes may grow Wetlands named for Glay Center lawmaker who is fighting cancer By LEW FERGUSON the Associated Press TOPEKA — Gov. Bill Graves paid tribute Tuesday to Rep. Steve Lloyd, signing into law a bill that names a wetlands near Milford Lake after the Clay Center legislator who is dying of cancer. : The Senate T * , Legislature IQQft Ks^sKSg i ^J ^/IJ debated whether the state should commit money to a building in Lawrence named for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole; both chambers advanced telecommunications legislation, and a House committee endorsed a bill to give state pensioners an annual boost in their retirement benefits. The tax relief ping pong ball continued to bounce, with a conference committee holding another futile meeting. The House Taxation Committee then brought forth yet another plan — the seventh one since Graves proposed the -first in January. This one focuses on property tax relief and costs $200 million in reduced revenue. Wetlands named for Lloyd ,-As Lloyd's wife, Kathe, looked on, Graves signed into law the bill ", Kansans may get Steady gas bills By The Associated Press •TOPEKA — Kansas Gas Service wants to start a pilot program under which consumers could pay the same bill each month, rather than have their bills fluctuate with the weather. Salina would be included. ;The company filed a request Tuesday with the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities. ^Consumers' use of natural gas typically increases in the winter, as they need more to heat their homes and businesses. But the cost of gas also typically increases -4 adding to consumers' costs. •In exchange for paying lower bills in the winter, consumers wpuld agree to pay higher-than- nprmal bills during the summer, when their use of natural gas is low. However, during the summer, their use of electricity for air conditioning is at its peak use. "We want to offer this option for our residential customers who want some protection from unexpected fluctuations due to cold weather and who prefer predictable monthly bills," said Eugene Dubay, president of Kansas Gas Service. naming the 2,250-acre Milford wetlands after Lloyd, in whose district it is located and who hunted there as a youth. Lloyd could not attend the ceremony. The Clay Center Republican has terminal stomach cancer. He is chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee but has been at the Statehouse only once this session — when the House passed the bill naming the wetlands after him on Feb. 5. Kathe Lloyd, who plans to run for her husband's House seat in this year's elections, said Lloyd's situation is now "day-to-day." He is confined to his home. Lloyd will be 46 on April 9. The best tax relief The tax relief battle continued unabated. House negotiators offered another version of a $190 million proposal that includes a variety of tax cutting measures, including some sought by Graves. Senate bargainers came back with a reworked version of that plan. The House Taxation Committee then came up with the $200 million version, which is expected to be debated in House today. The proposal calls for reducing the state property tax rate from 27 mills to 8.5 mills for one year only, with the Legislature having to reset the levy next year. It also would expand the homestead property exemption for a year from $20,000 to $40,000 for residential and commercial property. On other fronts: • Senate Democrats failed to take $3 million earmarked to honor Dole and use most of it to improve state historic sites. The effort came as the Senate passed a bill appropriating $69.5 million for capital improvement projects. The vote on the entire bill was 35-5. Vote on the effort to remove the Dole money to help finance the Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy was 10-26. • Hoping to quiet consumer anger over surcharges on phone bills, both houses advanced their telecommunications bills. Both would put an upper limit on the surcharges, used to finance the Universal Service Fund. A 1996 law created the fund to guarantee that rural areas would have access to the same telecommunications technology as urban areas. • People retired at least five years under the state pension system would get an automatic annual cost- of-living ii.jrease of up to 2 percent if a plan endorsed by the House Appropriations Committee wins passage. However, chairmen of both the House panel and the Senate Ways and Means Committee denounced it as a budget-busting liability for the state for years to come. 24 packs All Sport 32 oz. $1.45 each ower Bank Stop by, I'm here to serve your blinking needs! 8UNFLOWEK BANK Rebuilding Our Families Friday, April 17 O A«M« ~" *9 PiM« Bicentennial. Center A one-day workshop looking at the significant and destructive influences of media & technology on families, and strategies to counter those dangerous effects. For more information, call the Family Hope Center, an outreach program of the First Presbyterian Church, at 825-8461. Coupon Good Thru April 4th, 1998 &alibur Leather upper and footpad stitched to a cushy wedge bottom. Present this coupon worth $10.00 toward any regularly priced (over $40) Born, Clarks, Naturalize! 1 , or Nicole sandals. i QScaut Very popular with velcro closure in an array of colors to please everyone. Hours: Mon-Fri • 9am-6pm Sat. 9am-5:30pm (785) 823-2146 Fine quality leather with dual adjustable straps to make for a great fit! ONE WEEK! THROUGH APRIL 4rn STOREWIDE- UP TO 50% OFFIi STARTING AT Drumsets 399 LARGEST SELECTION IN THE AREA! YAMAHA 0 Prices Good Through April 7, 1998- Salina Stores Only •—• FULL SIZE 'ACOUSTIC GUITARS *H9 SILVER PLATED Trumpets Electric GUITARS FaoM $|49 * Utanax DELUXE Violin Outfit Was $1,050 {Now Accessories % OFF 30! \REEDS, OILS, STRINGS, PAD SAVERS, [& Music STANDS ALL ON SALE CYMBALS, HEADS, OFF 8k STICKS GUITAR & BASS OFF STRINGS ALL GUITARS & AMPS ON SALE!!! 210 S. Santa Fe, Salina, Kansas 1-800-262-1376 025-6296

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