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Natural gas prices rising in area

October 02, 2000|By STACEY DANZUSO

Natural gas prices rising in area



Winter heating bills for the average Columbia Gas customer will increase by $28 a month over last winter's due to the continuing rise in natural gas prices, according to the company.

"We are seeing an increase in the cost of natural gas. We just pass that on to the customers," Robert Boulware, a Columbia Gas spokesman, said Monday. "We will not make a profit on this."

The average customer who uses about 90 cubic feet of gas per month will see a monthly gas bill increase of about $28 over last winter, the company said.

That increase incorporates the $10 hike Columbia Gas implemented for the same reason over the summer, Boulware said.

The cost of natural gas is about 38 percent higher this winter than last year due to an increase in wholesale gas costs, according to a statement from Columbia Gas.

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If the company over-collects, Boulware said Columbia Gas "will make the appropriate adjustments."

Customers enrolled in the Customer Choice program will remain locked into their prices for the duration of their contracts, Boulware said.

Boulware suggested Columbia Gas customers, including the 10,000 residential customers in Washington County, prepare for higher than normal bills by taking advantage of its budget and assistance programs and practicing energy conservation tips.

Anyone can participate in the Customer Choice program and lock in the price of natural gas for the length of service of the contract with another natural gas provider or enroll in the Budget Payment Plan which spreads the cost of the winter heating bill over the year.

Customers with restricted or low incomes can, if they meet financial guidelines, receive grant assistance through several programs. Heat Share, Maryland Energy Assistance Program and Utility Service Protection Program can aid single-person households earning at or below $1,030 a month. For each additional person add $353 a month.

Columbia Gas of Maryland, part of Columbia Energy Group in Herndon, Va., serves more than 34,000 customers in three counties.

For more information on Columbia Gas' budget and assistance programs, call 888-460-4332.

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