Atmos Energy is asking the Kentucky Public Service Commission for a 9.4% rate increase, which would raise revenue by $16.4 million a year.

Kay Coomes, the utility’s public affairs manager, said if the full request is approved, the average residential customer would see an increase of $4.99 a month. But, she said, the Public Service Commission has up to 10 months to issue its decision.

“So, we are not anticipating customers to see any increase in their bills until early 2022,” Coomes said.

She said this is the first rate increase Atmos has sought since 2018.

In September that year, Atmos submitted a request that would have added $4.41 to the average residential bill. That proposal would have raised $14.5 million and helped support a two-year capital investment strategy that was expected to cost more than $120 million.

The request came after Atmos lowered its rates by about $2 for the average customer, following the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. But in May 2019, the PSC denied the request, leaving the total base rate portion of the utility’s bills essentially unchanged for residential customers.

But the PSC said it restructured the company’s monthly bill, “increasing the fixed customer charge while reducing the usage-dependent charge for delivery of each 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas.”

What that meant was the base rate portion of the bill would be a penny below what was then the current $26.69 for a customer using an average of 5,330 cubic feet of natural gas a month, the PSC said.

Utilities rarely get the full amount of any requested rate increase. Coomes said the system works like a negotiating process.

The PSC asks questions during the period and the utility provides answers, she said.

“These numbers reflect our full request,” Coomes said. “We are unsure exactly what the final numbers will be at the end of our case.”

“The main reason we are requesting a rate increase is because our current rates are not providing a fair rate of return and Atmos Energy will invest approximately $62.1 million in our Kentucky operations from January 2022 through December 2022,” she added. “We understand that no one ever likes to see an increase in their bill, especially during this time, but Atmos Energy is one of the lowest-cost providers in the commonwealth and we strive to do our best to determine the correct balance between rates and our customers.”

“Our No. 1 mission is and will always be, the safety and reliability of our system in the communities we serve. And to that end, we must file a rate case at this time.”

Atmos serves 3 million customers in more than 1,400 communities in eight states, primarily in the South. More than 179,000 of them are in Kentucky.