News

Natural gas rates on the rise for area

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Staying cozy and warm will be more expensive this fall and winter for Bonney Lake-area residents using natural gas.

Puget Sound Energy announced Aug. 31 it filed a request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase gas prices.

According to PSE, the short-term wholesale price of natural gas has increased by 36 percent during the past year and nearly tripled since August, 2002.

"PSE passes the cost through to customers with no mark-up or profit," PSE spokesman Roger Thompson said. "State regulators check our analysis very carefully before allowing any increase. If the price goes down the rates go down. Three years ago rates dropped 37 percent."

PSE purchases most of its natural gas from wholesalers in Canada and the Rocky Mountain states.

"It's a question of supply and demand," Thompson said. "The Midwest and East have expanded capacity and those areas are now competing with us for the gas supply."

Thompson noted the record prices of crude oil has been an element in the increasing demand in the eastern states.

Some of the electrical generators in the east are diesel-motor driven. Because of the high cost of diesel oil, some companies have switched to natural gas generators.

"The long and short of it is, it's market driven," Thompson said "Regionally and nationally there is increased demand on the supply."

The commission will consider the request at the Sept. 29 public meeting. The WUTC staff will investigate the PSE proposal to verify the increase is for the wholesale cost of purchasing, storing and transporting the gas.

If approved, the rate increase would go into effect Oct. 1.

According to PSE the average household using 80 therms of gas per month would see a monthly increase of $11.90, jumping the monthly price to $82.

The energy utility provides natural gas to over 650,000 customers in Pierce, Snohomish, King, Thurston, Lewis, and Kittitas counties.

An assistance program for people who have difficulty paying their bill is available. Information about this program is available at 888-225-5773.

A few of the energy saving tips the utility is recommending include:

€ Sealing noticeable air leaks around windows and doors

€ Having furnaces inspected and serviced to ensure they're in top working order

€ Insulating attics, outside walls, and floors over crawl spaces

€ Turning down thermostats a few degrees while still keeping rooms comfortable

PSE also provides a variety of conservation services, financial incentives and rebates on energy-efficient appliances.

More information about PSE's programs and energy saving tips are available at www. pse.com or by calling 1-800-562-1482.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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