Home Gas Suppliers Put Heat on Buyers
Baker, Chris, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
At least six of the 14 companies authorized to supply natural gas to homes in central Maryland have quit the residential market, leaving many customers scrambling to find new providers in the newly deregulated market.
Most customers did not lose gas service when their supplier left the market, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.
In most cases, their contracts were automatically picked up by one of the incumbent suppliers in the state, Washington Gas Light Co. and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the agency said.
Two years after the state reduced its regulation of the industry, five companies have stopped offering residential gas service: Conectiv Energy, GasMark, Metromedia Energy, Perry Energy Services and Total Gas & Electric, the agency said.
A sixth company, AGF Direct, declared bankruptcy and ended contracts with an estimated 1,000 customers without warning, according to the commission.
The companies quit the market at a time when the price of natural gas is rising and the winter is expected to be colder than last year's warmer-than-normal temperatures.
Washington Gas Light Co., the gas supplier to 820,000 customers in the Washington area, including 340,000 in the District's Maryland suburbs, said its customers should expect their heating bills to increase about 27 percent this winter.
In most instances, the suppliers terminated what were supposed to be yearlong, fixed-price contracts with customers who now must search for new contracts as choices dwindle and the cost of home heating rises. …