Friday, June 10 2022

GH Scott

By now you have heard the news that City Council has approved Las Cruces Utilities’ request to update natural gas rates to meet the operational needs of the system. What you may not know is the long journey LCU has undertaken in a transparent process that has recognized the contribution of customers in the end result.

Head of Rates and Economic Analysis, Domonique Rodriguez, led the gas rate review and public outreach for LCU.

“We began the gas rate review process in late 2020, assessing finances to determine gas utility needs, working with the external consultant as he prepared his report and recommendations, and then working with the Utility Customer Advisory Group to organize public hearings. , then to the LCU Board of Commissioners for their recommendations, and ending with City Council for final approval of the changes,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and the LCU team went through the entire process during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a distinct impact on how long the review took and getting final approval. “We held two public outreach sessions on Zoom, but also during this time all public documents were available on the City of Las Cruces website allowing customers to send feedback via email and when any opened up, we had two in-person meetings,” Rodriguez said.

Considering that LCU was applying for a rate increase, customers who attended the virtual or in-person meetings appreciated the review process.

“A client just moved here from El Paso. She had questions and said our process was great because she got the chance to speak with LCU and she really loved that opportunity,” Rodriguez said.

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The last time the municipal utility raised natural gas rates was in 2011. The additional revenue allows the LCU to safely maintain and operate the natural gas system, cover salaries and employee benefits and replacing older vehicles and equipment.

“Ultimately, this was a good outcome for LCU. Working with natural gas is risky; our primary concern is to ensure we have the appropriate trained and certified personnel with the appropriate equipment and funding to rehabilitate and maintain the system for the health and safety of all of our customers,” continued Rodriguez.

LCU listened to feedback from customers, the Utilities Board and Members of City Council in addressing three major concerns, which included a three-year phased introduction of rate increases, the elimination of funding for the new the debt for gas line extensions and the postponement of applying the new tariffs until the commodity emergency recovery surcharge is over.

“Once we end the commodity emergency recovery surcharge, which will be in late summer, the new rate will start in early fall,” Rodriguez said. LCU’s residential customers will see a slight increase on their monthly bills when the new natural gas rates take effect.

City Council formalizes a request to the LCU Board to begin applying the 15 cent decarbonization per dekatherm endorsement to all customers in the first year of the rate change rather than the spread over three years. The gas usage endorsement will be used to fund an energy transition plan and to assess and implement energy efficiency upgrades in the LCU service area.

LCU – Your utility connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more about For emergencies, call the dispatcher at 575-526-0500.

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