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ONG to implement rate increase without commission approval

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. will implement a rate increase on Thursday even though the Oklahoma Corporation Commission hasn't approved its proposal, officials said.

The increase, recommended by a Corporation Commission administrative law judge, totals about $58 million annually and would cost the average residential customer $5.75 a month more.

ONG officials, who asked the commission for an annual increase of about $99.4 million initially, will go ahead with the rate hike because the commission hasn't completed its order within the 180-day period established by state law.

``The commission order apparently won't be forthcoming at least for some time, and we're simply acting in accordance to state statutes,'' ONG spokesman Don Sherry said. ``We clearly have an understandable desire to implement new rates. We would not have brought this case before the commission if we didn't need the revenue.''

The attorney general's office suggested an increase of less than a third of what ONG initially requested. Appeals by ONG and the attorney general's office will be considered by the commission on Monday.

If commissioners order a different level of increase, the hike would be adjusted, Sherry said.

``In virtue of the fact that much was recommended, there is implicit the recognition that we need to invest in our system on behalf of our customers,'' Sherry said. ``But we do believe as our appeal states that there are certain issues that reflect justification for a higher rate.''

The attorney general's office has said even the law judge's suggestion will cost consumers too much money.

``Our appeal expresses some concern with the use of short-term debt, corporate allocations and a couple of riders that were in the ONG plan,'' attorney general spokesman Charlie Price said.

``Our appeal does not specify a number, but our appeal would mean less of an increase for consumers.''
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