Mecklenburg County residents protest rate hike proposed by Piedmont Natural Gas

Dozens gathered outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Wednesday, protesting the rate increase proposed by Piedmont Natural Gas.

The crowd gathered around 5 p.m., just two hours before the North Carolina Utilities Commission held a public meeting about the proposed increase.

The nine percent increase Piedmont proposed would add more than $80 million to the company’s annual revenue and cost an average gas customer about an additional $6 per month.

Climate activist Jerome Wagner with '350 Charlotte' told FOX 46 that their group believes any investments in natural gas infrastructure are wrong and that the additional monies should be invested in renewable energy.

Wagner said maintenance and safe operations are necessary but money from the increase should not be used to expand pipe lines and gas facilities.

“I think that actually Duke that owns Piedmont Natural Gas is in a perfect position to help lead us to renewable energy. They have a renewable energy business, they could help manage the overall transition between Piedmont and that renewable resources and in the meanwhile, they can make sure that the natural gas systems are maintained for the future,” said Wagner.

Although the rate hikes aren’t steep Wagner said they are enough to hurt low income families and people on fixed incomes.

Statement from Piedmont Natural Gas: 

We focus on delivering reliable natural gas service safely to our customers every day. We are asking the utilities commission for a general rate review to support growth in North Carolina, meet required federal safety and security standards, and continue to maintain the reliability our customers depend on. It’s our first general rate request in six years, and the increase would be less than the rate of inflation since 2013 and less than what customers were paying in 2008. The infrastructure work we’ve done supports our customers’ expectations that we continue to strengthen our pipeline system and improve our service.