If it were sports, the score at the “half” would be Liberty Utilities $6 million, Missouri PSC minus 4 million.

The negative score could be a positive win for the consumer.  However, the final outcome won’t be known until fall.

The $10 million difference was discussed at a public hearing held in Hannibal Tuesday:  Liberty Utilities asked for a natural gas rate increase in February of approximately $6.3 million. The Missouri Public Service Commission audit concluded in June that a decrease of nearly $4 million is warranted. Major differences lie in shareholders rate of return, revenue calculations, and depreciation. The PSC notes additional data may still be supplied by Liberty which would change the calculations.

Liberty maintains current rates are based on a 2010 cost structure.  The company claims to have invested more than $19 million in facilities and infrastructure, and added 40 positions since acquiring the utility from Atmos Energy.

The company is requesting increases in the monthly Delivery Charge and the Commodity Rate per cubic foot of gas used. The Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge would be eliminated.  As proposed, the average monthly rate increase varies by region-- northeast Missouri bills would increase an average of $9.05 a month, southeast Missouri would go up around $6.40, and customers in western Missouri would see increases averaging $12.35 monthly.

The actual cost of natural gas on a typical bill is 55 to 60 percent of the total.  The remaining non-gas costs include operating and maintenance expenses, and infrastructure such as gas lines and mains that carry the product to the consumer.

Hannibal was the third of five public hearings scheduled around the state.  Truman State in Kirksville hosts the next hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Consumers unable to attend a public hearing can submit comments by calling the PSC at 800-392-4211, or by accessing the website psc.mo.gov.

The formal evidentiary hearing takes place in Jefferson City September 8-12, and September 16-19.