Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas agreed Friday to a 3.6percent rate hike, far lower than the 9.3percent overall increase it had sought.
A settlement with the N.C. Utilities Commissions Public Staff and the Carolina Utility Customers Association, which represents industries, said significant and difficult negotiations led to the agreement. The Utilities Commission must still approve it.
Piedmont had asked for $79.8 million in new revenue. The settlement gives it $30.6 million and allows a 10 percent return on equity; Piedmont had sought an 11.3 percent return. New rates would take effect Jan. 1.
Piedmont agreed to partly offset the increase by filing for a reduction in its cost-of-gas rate to reflect the falling wholesale price of gas. The agreement also lets Piedmont recover only $1.2 million of the $3.6 million in costs it asked to recover from a liquefied gas project in Robeson County that was canceled.
Piedmonts last general rate case in North Carolina was in 2008. The company serves 693,000 customers in the state. Bruce Henderson
Charlotte headed for international spotlight
Charlotte Center City Partners President Michael Smith will use the growth of Charlottes downtown as a case study next week in New York when urban management experts from around the world gather for the International Downtown Associations World Congress.
The conference will draw nearly 700 downtown and urban district leaders from around the United States, Canada and 11 other countries. Theyll talk about the evolution of city centers and share best practices.
Smith will speak Tuesday during a panel discussion on how cultural partnerships can spur development and revitalize neighborhoods. Charlotte used a public-private partnership to bring the Mint Museum, the Harvey B. Gantt Center and the Knight Theater to a formerly underdeveloped stretch of South Tryon Street. Eric Frazier
SunTrust cut more N.C. branches than others
SunTrust Banks cut more branches in North Carolina than any other lender over the past year, according to data provided to the Observer by SNL Financial.
The Atlanta-based lender, which is building a regional headquarters in SouthPark, closed 28 branches across the state as of June 30. The bank, which has had a presence in North Carolina since 2004, has been looking this year to shed branches.
In March, bank CEO William Rogers told analysts it planned to close roughly 40 U.S. branches in the first quarter of this year. Additional closures were planned for 2013, he said. Many of the branches the bank is closing are inside stores, such as Kroger and Publix.
The SunTrust closures have helped North Carolina lose the largest percentage of branches in the past year compared to any other state. The number of branches in the state dropped from 2,720 to 2,634, or 3 percent. Only 15 of the closures were in the Charlotte region. Deon Roberts
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