Piedmont Natural Gas said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with North Carolina consumer and industrial groups on a rate increase proposal.

The negotiation included the Carolina Utility Customers Association, the Carolina Industrial Group for Fair Utility Rates and the Public Staff of the N.C. Utilities Commission.

The parties agreed to a 3% increase, compared with the 9% increase Piedmont requested, saying it needs to pay for system growth, infrastructure investments, pipeline safety and security improvements. The rate could go into effect by year’s end.

The monthly bill for Piedmont's typical residential customer would increase by $1.80 per month. The utility said the rate increase is mitigated by federal and state tax reform, allowing PNC to return savings to customers.

Rates may be further reduced by a projected decrease in the cost of natural gas in the fall.

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