Maryland's Strategic Infrastructure Development and Enhancement (STRIDE) program provides a cost recovery mechanism to incentivize local gas distribution companies to accelerate improvements in gas infrastructure. Elkton Gas Company (Elkton) filed a request to Maryland's PSC to establish its first STRIDE Plan and associated surcharge. The Company proposed to accelerate its existing plans to replace 4.68 miles of vintage Aldyl-A plastic pipe from four to three years. Within its role as a consumer advocate, Maryland's Office of People's Counsel (OPC) intervened in the proceeding on behalf of Elkton's residential consumers and wanted to hire a firm to support its staff with its review of Elkton's three-year STRIDE plan and surcharge recovery mechanism.
DHInfrastructure staff submitted expert testimony and supported a settlement agreement. Our analysis focused on if Elkton's STRIDE plan met the eligibility requirements of the Maryland statute that permits gas companies to implement an infrastructure investment plan with a cost recovery mechanism. We found that while the plan was smaller in scale to the STRIDE programs carried out by other Maryland gas companies, the slightly faster pace of replacement technically met the minimum requirements established by the PSC for STRIDE plans to meet the acceleration goals of the statute. To ensure that this requirement will be fulfilled, we recommended that the PSC specify in the Order that the STRIDE plan will only be approved for three years and that only costs incurred through the three-year period (2021-2023) would be eligible for recovery through the surcharge. He also provided recommendations on corrections to the calculation of property taxes in the cost recovery mechanism. After filing initial testimony, we supported the OPC with settlement discussions that resulted in a settlement containing stipulations for each of our recommendations.