HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday voted to investigate a proposed rate increase submitted by Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc. for natural gas distribution services.

The Commission voted 4-0 to suspend the proposed rate increase request for up to seven months from the time the rates would otherwise have become effective, and to assign the case to the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge for corresponding proceedings and the issuance of a recommended decision.

Columbia’s request, filed on April 24, would increase its operating revenues by approximately $100.4 million per year (17.54%). Under the proposal filed by Columbia, the total bill for a typical residential heating customer using 70 therms of gas per month would increase from $87.57 to $103.19, or by approximately 17.84%.

Public input hearings to gather comments about Columbia’s rate increase request from concerned residents will be scheduled by the Administrative Law Judge and publicized by the PUC and Columbia when dates and locations have been finalized.

Columbia provides natural gas service to about 433,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in portions of 26 counties in western, northwestern, central and southern Pennsylvania.