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W.Va. natural gas rates expected to go down

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Natural gas customers in West Virginia should see a decrease in their monthly bill, starting next month.

The state Public Service Commission ordered natural gas utilities to lower the purchased gas portion of their rates -- based on the amount the gas companies pay their suppliers -- as colder weather approaches.

The lower interim rates would go into effect Nov. 1. Final rates would be established in early 2013.

For example, Hope Gas customers will see their purchased gas rates decrease more than 12 percent.

Last winter, an average Hope Gas residential customer paid $135.53 per month. That would be decreased to $125.52 if the order is finalized, said Byron Harris, director of the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division.

Mountaineer Gas customers will see gas-portion rates decrease 18.5 percent, according to the PSC. That would reduce an average Mountaineer Gas residential customer's bill from $126.66 a month last year to $111.09 this year.

However, there is another case before the PSC that could raise Mountaineer Gas customers' bill, Harris said.

Mountaineer Gas has a base rate case pending before the PSC so the total rates have not yet been determined, according to a PSC news release. That could raise an average customer's bill by $3.40 per month, Harris said.

Harris said natural gas utilities could file for exceptions to the ruling in the next 15 days. The PSC's decision will be finalized after those 15 days.

"This isn't a final order of the Commission," Harris said Friday. "This is an annual proceeding we have that is made possible because of the increased supply of natural gas, and [because] we had such a historically record-warm year last winter that depressed the price of natural gas."

Equitable Gas' rate is being reduced almost 34 percent. Consumers Gas, Bluefield Gas, Blacksville Oil & Gas, Canaan Valley Gas, Lumberport-Shinnston Gas, Southern Gas, Standard Gas, A.V. Company, Tawney Gas Services and Union Oil & Gas will all be decreasing their purchased gas rates, the PSC said.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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