Shaun Zinck Aug. 27, 2015, 12:26pm

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will reduce its proposed rate increase by more than $13 million in an agreement with the state, said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Aug. 20.

The gas company will also be prohibited from more distribution rate increases for three years, and will also pay $250,000 that will go towards helping moderate income residents by their gas bills, Healey said.

“As the ratepayer advocate for the commonwealth, it is our job to help ensure we get the best possible result for residents and businesses,” Healey said. “This agreement saves customers millions of dollars and puts safeguards in place for those who struggle to pay their energy bills. We will continue to fight for fair rates and require energy companies to justify their increases.”

Columbia Gas was seeking to increase distribution rates by about $49.7 million. The settlement with Healey's office was filed with the state Department of Public Utilities on Aug. 19, and will lower the rate increase to $36 million. Distribution rates can't increase again until November 2018 under the agreement, Healey said.

The $250,000 will go to the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which is a cooperative effort with the Salvation Army and state energy companies. The fund helps residents who are in a temporary crisis and struggling to pay their energy bills, but do not quality for federal or state energy assistance.

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