UGI gas line expansion program awaits PUC ruling

Reading-based UGI Utilities Inc. is waiting for a ruling from the Pennsylvania Utility Commission on a pilot program it wants to run statewide to expand its gas mains into neighborhoods not currently served, including those in the midstate.

The Growth Extension Tariff program, or GET Gas, would add a monthly surcharge to new customer bills over 10 years to pay for the gas main extensions into a neighborhood, said Joseph Swope, a UGI spokesman.

The company wants to expand gas usage for businesses and homes because of demand caused by the low price of natural gas, he said.

“The biggest issue in reaching people with gas is extending the main,” Swope said.

Natural-gas mains can cost about $100 per foot, or roughly $500,000 to $1 million per mile, he said. That makes an extension into a neighborhood expensive, and often can prevent people from switching to gas if they know they’ll have to finance the connection up front, he said.

GET Gas would allow those costs to be spread over 10 years with allowances for homeowners and businesses that would help them connect to new mains. No one would be required to connect to the gas lines, Swope said.

Some midstate communities and neighborhoods are being considered for GET Gas, but UGI won’t know for certain which areas it’s specifically targeting until 2014, Swope said. The company has been giving informational sessions to midstate municipalities during the past several months.