Natural gas price hike related to cold snap

February 06, 1997


Staff Writer

The increased cost of natural gas has brought a barrage of calls from customers complaining about their monthly bills, Columbia Gas officials said Thursday.

The price surge is related to a November cold snap that disrupted production in the South at a time when inventories were low and demand high, officials said.

"We're concerned about our customers, and we can help them if they need help in paying these higher bills," said John Quinn, manager of regulatory policy for Columbia Gas.


The company has a budget payment plan available for the asking, he said.

Quinn said the higher wholesale cost of natural gas was passed on to customers in order to recover what it cost the company to buy natural gas.

"We anticipate as we move out of winter, the cost will decline, and our customers' billings will reflect the reduction," he said.

Maryland residential customers can expect to pay about $88 for February if they use an average of 9,000 cubic feet of natural gas, officials said.

Maryland customers paid an average $70 a month for natural gas service in 1996, officials said.

Pennsylvania residential customers can expect to pay an average of $79 for the same period if they use an average of 10,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

The company has no plans to seek a rate increase this year for non-gas revenues, Quinn said.

The wholesale purchase of gas accounts for 53 percent of Columbia Gas expenses, Quinn said. Regulatory agencies allow the company to recover higher costs associated with buying natural gas.

Columbia Gas is regulated in Maryland by the Public Service Commission and in Pennsylvania by the Public Utility Commission.

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