COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) — A proposed rate increase is being challenged by the Environmental Law and Policy Center of Ohio.

The watchdog group says Columbia Gas needs to come up with a better argument for the proposed increase that is before the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

In its filing to the commission, the policy center said that Columbia failed to provide a required three-prong test for the increase, saying that it didn’t argue effectively and that the elimination of some of its fixed-rate programs was not in the best interest of consumers.

Columbia proposes to increase the fixed monthly customer charge from $36.15 to $46.30 in the first year and then up to $58.01 in year five.

The policy center said the rate hike may be valid, but a better argument needs to be made and that Columbia should keep all of its fixed-rate programs. They are looking to get rid of all of them but one, which targets low-income customers according to the filing.

“Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) does not question the amount of the rate increase, but questions the reasonableness of the rate design and the elimination of the Company’s energy efficiency programs (also referred to as “demand-side management” (DSM) programs),” the group wrote in its filing.

The rate hike is part of the utility’s effort to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and energy-efficient technology.

The police center accuses Columbia of being not “serious” in its argument for some of the rate hike changes and policies saying that its written request was too brief and did not fully explain what the group wanted or the full impact on customers.

“Columbia makes very little effort to defend this Stipulation, filing what must be the shortest testimony on record that contains no analysis of the issues. The brevity (less than three pages of substance on the three prongs) and conclusory nature of Columbia’s testimony speaks for itself,” the group wrote.

Columbia Gas countered by saying it had negotiated the rate increase in good faith and that the agreement they have in place is in the best interest of its customers, writing:

“Through committed, open negotiations over several months by Columbia, Staff, OCC, and many intervenors representing a broad range of customer interests, the signatory parties were able to resolve Columbia’s first rate case in over a decade by reaching an agreement on a comprehensive settlement package that offers numerous benefits to Columbia’s residential, commercial, and industrial customers while furthering the Commission’s longstanding regulatory principles and practices. For all of the reasons expressed above, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Inc. respectfully requests that the Commission approve the Stipulation without material modification.”

The case continues through the approval process.