Utilities Roll Back Natural Gas Prices

Article excerpt

Homeowners can expect this fall to pay natural gas bills with prices close to those of two years ago, before Hurricane Katrina spurred fuel shortages and price spikes.

Western Pennsylvania's three largest gas companies filed their quarterly cost adjustments with the state Friday, showing prices they'll charge customers through the end of the year.

Dominion Peoples Gas customers will pay 32.4 percent less during the next three months than they did a year ago, and Equitable Gas customers will pay 27.3 percent less.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania planned to file its numbers late yesterday with the Public Utility Commission and release them Monday. Spokesman Matt Pitzarella said customers can expect rates significantly lower than last fall's.

It's a matter of supply and demand.

"Market prices have been coming down because storage reports show there are more than adequate gas supplies for this winter," said Joe Gregorini, Dominion's manager for regulatory affairs and pricing.

Most of the hurricane-related damage to gas production facilities on the Gulf of Mexico has been repaired. Last winter's weather was mild, and so far this year, weather events haven't disrupted the gas industry.

"Certainly the news on the gas front has been good for the last couple months," said Irwin A. "Sonny" Popowsky, the state's consumer advocate. Consumers should hope for another mild winter, though, because long cold spells could drive prices up again.

Dominion's gas rate for the year's fourth quarter will be $8.67 per thousand cubic feet, or mcf, down from $12.82 the previous year. Equitable will charge $9.98, compared to $13.72 a year ago. The rates reflect the prices the companies expect to pay for the gas. By law, they cannot make a profit on the sale of the heating fuel.

Columbia charged $13. …