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SD settlement reached in MDU natural gas rate case

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. would be allowed to raise rates for its natural gas customers in the Black Hills while cutting charges for its customers in eastern South Dakota, according to a proposed settlement reached by the company and the state Public Utilities Commission's staff.

The PUC's commissioners were scheduled to meet Tuesday to decide whether to accept the settlement reached between its staff and Bismarck, N.D.-based MDU.

The settlement consolidates MDU's customers in the Black Hills and eastern South Dakota into one rate jurisdiction. The agreement would mean MDU's customers overall would pay about 2 percent more, less than the company's original proposed increase of 3.3 percent.

The company's 47,600 residential customers in the Black Hills area would pay about 4.3 percent more, while its 7,200 customers in eastern South Dakota would pay about 4.1 percent less.

MDU originally wanted to boost residential rates by 6.3 percent in the Black Hills and cut rates by 2.8 percent in eastern South Dakota.

MDU had raised rates on an interim basis on July 22. Because the settlement would authorize a rate increase on Dec. 1 that's less than the interim rates, a refund plan would be developed after approval of the settlement.