A parade of under-the-radar rate hikes — that’s been the unfortunate result of a controversial Railroad Commission program that now has captured the attention of The Dallas Morning News.

The program, known as the Gas Reliability Infrastructure Program, or GRIP, has long been criticized by the Atmos Cities Steering Committee, the Texas Coalition of Cities for Utility Issues and other city and consumer groups. It also has been the subject of critical reports by the state’s largest-circulation newspaper, the Houston Chronicle.

And now, in a blistering Aug. 24 editorial, The Dallas Morning News has added its voice to those expressing concerns.

The paper noted that GRIP has led to multiple hikes by multiple gas utilities, including more than a half-billion dollars in increases from a single Atmos Energy division serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It noted that GRIP allows these hikes without substantive regulatory review.

“The program … amounts to a license to skirt serious regulatory oversight,” the paper’s editorial board stated.

GRIP was first authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2003.  It has been reported separately that utilities have gone so far as to leverage the program to hike rates even at times when the utilities already are reaping windfall profits.

The Morning News noted that commodity gas prices have declined precipitously over the last several years, but those declines have been masked by the repeated GRIP increases. It concluded that “consumers are getting the short end” from GRIP and that lawmakers should consider ending the program.

“Utilities have a right to recoup their investments, but it must not be part of shadow alternative rate process for regulation,” the newspaper stated.

You can read The Dallas Morning News editorial here.

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