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State: Natural gas rates will drop by almost $15 a month for average customer in October

Post by Joe Turner on Sep. 24, 2009 at 11:16 am with No Comments »
September 24, 2009 11:18 am

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission approved the lower rates, which amount to about a 16 percent drop. Puget Sound Energy is paying less for natural gas so the utility that serves me and a few hundred thousand others in the area asked to have its rates lowered.

There’s also a slight drop for electric customers.

Natural gas rates for Puget Sound Energy customers drop again
Electric rates go up slightly

OLYMPIA, Wash. – For the second time this year, natural gas rates paid by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers are going down.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today approved PSE’s request to lower natural gas rates by about 16 percent due to the continued decline in the wholesale cost of fuel. For an average residential customer who uses 68 therms a month, the decrease is about $14.88, for a $78.30 monthly bill total beginning Oct. 1.

“Natural gas customers will soon begin to crank up the heat in response to cooler temperatures, I am pleased that they can expect noticeably lower heating bills this winter,” said UTC Commissioner Patrick Oshie.

PSE also requested the UTC approve two rate adjustments for electricity service that will result in customers seeing a slight increase on their electric bills. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) will pay the utility a reduced amount of federal power benefits, which in turn is then passed through as a bill credit to residential and small farm customers. This action will lower the credit amount on an average household’s monthly bill by $1.86, from $9.14 to $7.27.

In addition, the commission also granted the utility a one-cent-per-month increase on natural gas and electric bills to help cover the costs of the company’s low-income assistance program.

This is the second price reduction of natural gas rates this year. In June, the UTC approved a decrease of about 1.7 percent, or $1.62 monthly for residential customers.

The commission decisions made today on PSE’s rate requests are separate from the general rate case filed by the company in May. In that proceeding, the utility is seeking a 2.5 percent increase in natural gas rates and a 7.4 percent increase in electric rates. The UTC will issue a decision on that request by next March.

Natural gas companies are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect the changes in wholesale prices. Cascade Natural Gas and Avista have already dropped rates twice this year. Northwest Natural Gas has a decrease currently pending before the commission. The companies are not allowed to earn a profit on gas-commodity rate changes.

Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy serves more than 1 million electric customers and nearly 750,000 natural gas customers in 11 Washington counties.

The three-member commission is the state agency in charge of regulating the private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a profit.

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