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      Atmos Energy rates heat up for Amarillo

      Atmos Energy bills across Amarillo will soon see an increase of about $3.24 per month.

      The price hike comes after the City of Amarillo worked to stop Atmos Energy from raising its rates. The City of Amarillo was, however, able to negotiate a reduction of the original request to raise the rates.

      Atmos Energy, according to the City, first submitted its initial application for the increase on February 7.

      The Amarillo City Commission denied it and Atmos Energy appealed it to the Railroad Commission of Texas. After months of discussion, the City of Amarillo's staff and legal counsel were able to negotiate the original request amount of $11 million down to $6.02 million.

      The City of Amarillo said it expects $3.51 million of the $6.02 million to be collected from ratepayers in the Amarillo area.

      Atmos Energy, according to the City of Amarillo, will see an overall revenue increase of about 7.3 percent. That means the average residential customer in Amarillo using 61 Ccf of gas per month will see an increase of $3.24 per month, starting this month.

      Along with the increased rates, Atmos Energy also proposed that all rates in the cities it serves in the Panhandle be the same. The City of Amarillo said by doing this, rates would dramatically increase in Amarillo and Lubbock while giving rate decreases to other cities in West texas.

      The City of Amarillo said that previously rates in Amarillo were based on what it costs to provide service in Amarillo instead of providing service in other West Texas cities.

      "We don't believe that the City of Amarillo's rates should be set based on what it costs to provide service outside Amarillo," Mayor Paul Harpole said. "But when the Railroad Commission did not allow us to present our evidence on what it actually costs Atmos to provide service in Amarillo, we directed our consultants and attorneys to minimize the increase as much as possible for Amarillo ratepayers by reaching the settlement."

      Amarillo City Commissioner Jim Simms said the Railroad Commission is acting like the Federal Government by imposing costs on Amarillo residents.

      "We are baffled by the actions of the Railroad Commission," Simms said. "They're acting very much like the federal government imposing costs on the local communities that our community had no part in causing. For more than 15 years, the Railroad Commission has not had to deal with regulating gas utility rates in Amarillo. Through local control, we have been able to maintain a healthy gas utility providing reliable service. Now, the State has come in and is trying to take that control away, and the results are not good for our citizens."

      Statement from Atmos Energy"As Atmos and all Texas natural gas distribution companies are only allowed to pass along to ratepayers the cost of what they pay for natural gas, no more or no less, this recent gas rate case only represents a portion of a gas bill that pays for what it costs Atmos to deliver gas to its customers.

      "In this rate case, the Commission is balancing rates across the single West Texas gas distribution system. Uniform system wide rates are consistent with state law and are standard policy at the Railroad Commission of Texas for natural gas utilities and at the Texas Public Utility Commission for electric utilities.