Buckley raises natural gas rates just in time for cold

By John Leggett-The Courier-Herald

Buckley residents, who have historically paid less for natural gas than any of the surrounding communities, will be hit with a cold dose of reality as an average rate hike of approximately 25 percent becomes effective today, Wednesday.

“We fought tooth and nail to keep those natural gas rates where they have been for the past three years, but in the end there was nothing else we could do, because the cost of natural gas has just become astronomical,” Buckley City Council utility chairman Bob Olsen said.

The rates, which are calculated on a “per therm” basis, have risen from 45 cents to 79 cents and that is the locked-in rate on 80 percent of the city's natural gas supply. The other 20 percent is purchased by an outside broker and the open market price fluctuates, but generally goes up steadily.

“There is a rumor floating around out there that natural gas rates have gone down, but that simply is not true,” said City Councilwoman Cristi Boyle-Barrett.

“We understand where people are at with this issue because we all live in this town too and we pay the same amount as everyone else,” she added.

The increase in natural gas prices on each user's monthly bill can vary dramatically, depending upon the number of appliances in a home powered by natural gas, the size of a home, how well a home is insulated and how warm the occupant keeps his abode.

Many elements were involved in the price hike. Primary among them is the fact that the cost of natural gas is going through the roof and during the facelift and excavation of Main Street, it was discovered that one of the rather large gas mains, which like most of the gas lines in the city is 50 or 60 years old, was in dire need of replacement.

“The cost of that repair was $22,000,” said City Administrator David Schmidt, “and that was relatively low compared to what it would have been, had the street not already been dug up.”

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