The city’s Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department began looking into CenterPoint’s natural gas rates last July, reports the Houston Chronicle. This research led investigators to believe that the company is understating its revenues and overstating its costs.
The Houston City Attorney claims that CenterPoint’s getting much higher than the 10% return on investment it’s entitled to, per its most recent rate case involving natural gas.
“We’re saying, ‘Look, we’ve got $15.7 million of what we think is real over-earnings,’ and we’ve had several meetings with them asking them to tell us where we’re wrong, and they haven’t done so,” a rep for the Regulatory Affairs Dept. tells the Houston Chronicle. “We’re not being provided with the information to have a complete picture, so the rate case is the vehicle that provides that information.”
For its part, CenterPoint says it “has been working closely with the city of Houston for the last several months to address their inquiry about our current natural gas rates.” It contends that a formal rate case would actually find that the company is not charging customers enough for natural gas service, and that the cost of such a case would ultimately have to be passed on to consumers anyway.
It’s possible, if not probable, that there will be an agreement made in the coming weeks that allows both sides to avoid having to get involved in a protracted, costly rate case.
Regardless, even if the city does make its case that CenterPoint has been overcharging, customers won’t be seeing refunds or credits for the time during which they may have paid too much. Instead, the rate case will only result in lower bills going forward.