By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you’re one of the 423,000 natural gas customers of Columbia Gas in the region, brace yourself.

You may have received not one, but two, notices of a rate increase.

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“One of the inserts that they received was for an adjustment to our natural gas commodity cost which we do not make a profit off of,” Sarah Perry, a Columbia Gas spokesperson, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano. “We buy the natural gas from the market, and we pass it on to our customers, penny for penny.”

Columbia Gas is asking the Public Utility Commission to approve a $27 million or 6.59 percent hike to cover expected rising costs of natural gas this winter, says Perry.

“It is projected that the commodity cost will rise into the next heating season,” said Perry.

But that’s not the biggest hike. Columbia is also asking for a $55 million increase or a 12.47 percent increase in the natural gas distribution base rate, the service that brings gas to your home.

“Those funds go to help cover the cost of repairing and replacing aging infrastructure,” Perry said.

If that sounds familiar, Columbia said the same thing three years ago.

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Repairing gas lines before they explode or cause injury is important, and Columbia ran ads a while ago touting their efforts.

Columbia Gas TV ad: “We’re upgrading hundreds of miles of our pipelines now so we can safely deliver your natural gas for generations to come.”

But customers will continue to pay for it, an average $9 more a month this time.

If you’re unhappy with these rate increases, there is a way to object.

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The Public Utility Commission will take your complaints, and the PUC tells KDKA they’re not going to act very quickly on this rate increase request from Columbia Gas.

“It’s up to the utilities to demonstrate why these things are necessary, and that’s why there’s such a thorough investigation and such a lengthy period of time,” said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, PUC spokesperson.

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No decision expected until December.