SEMCO Energy customers will see a 9% rate hike on their natural gas bills starting January first. Last week, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a nearly $20 million dollar rate hike for the Port Huron based utility. SEMCO had originally asked for a $38 million dollar increase. Tim Lubbers, spokesman for SEMCO, says the increase will be reflected in monthly customer and distribution charges. He tells WPHM the cost of natural gas itself has actually decreased over the years but the cost of maintaining their infrastructure has increased. “SEMCO has not seen a base-rate increase since 2011,” said Lubbers. “SEMCO installs and puts in natural gas facilities all year long, replacing older facilities, upgrading systems, and all of those things cost money.” Lubbers says the increased base-rate charges could add up to about $4 extra per month for residential customers. SEMCO energy provides natural gas service to much of the thumb region, as well as areas of southwest Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.