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Gas rates to rise slightly in Chambersburg

September 17, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Residential customers of the Chambersburg Gas Department can expect the cost of heating their homes to be about 12 percent higher this winter, but the longer view for 2009 is for an overall increase of 2 percent in natural gas prices, according to Superintendent John Leary.

Leary presented his departmental report to the Borough Council this week, projecting an increase in the November-March home heating season, but predicting moderating prices throughout the rest of 2009, barring any major disruption in supply.

Chambersburg has the lowest gas rates in Pennsylvania, about 20 percent lower than what Columbia Gas customers pay and 28 percent below PPL, Leary said. The borough's 5,200 customers, 84 percent of them residential, will use about 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas this year for an average monthly residential bill of $84, he said.

The department buys natural gas and resells it, the cost per dekatherm (1,000 cubic feet) being passed through to customers, Leary said. Other components of the cost are the distribution fee and customers charge, which Leary said will go up next year for the first time since 1995.

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The distribution fee will increase by 6 cents a unit and the customer charge by $3 a month, an increase of about $88 a year or 7.5 percent on those charges for the average residential customer, Leary said. The proposed increases would not go into effect until next spring, he said.

The department does not have to operate at a profit, but it still needs to generate enough excess revenue to operate and maintain the system, Leary said.

Another two-thirds of a mile of gas mains will be replaced in 2009, including about 2,000 feet on U.S. 30, Leary said. A new 600-foot gas main will serve Chambersburg Area Senior High School, which is undergoing renovations, and another 1,800 feet will serve a town house development, the report stated.

Looking beyond 2009, Leary said there is reason to think that natural gas could become more abundant. Most of the borough's gas comes from fields in Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, but large reserves in the eastern Gulf have yet to be tapped, he said.

The Marcellus Shale Formation stretches from New York, through Pennsylvania, down to West Virginia and into Ohio, according to Geology.com.

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology developed in recent years could make much of that gas recoverable, Leary said. Researchers from Penn State University and the State University of New York at Fredonia estimate that up to 50 trillion cubic feet could be recovered, according to Geology.com.

While that could mean abundant natural gas in the region, Leary said it will be years before the wells, transmission lines and storage facilities are developed.




Gas work



Capital improvements by the Chambersburg Gas Department in 2008 include:

The replacement of 1.8 miles of cast iron gas mains with more durable plastic ones

  • A new 2,000-foot main to serve Benjamin Chambers Elementary School

  • New gas service to Wilson College's science center

  • 1,800 feet of new mains to streets in the North End.

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