(12/26/2003)
Hit with skyrocketing insurance, prescription drug and home heating costs this winter, West Virginia's Public Service Commission has launched an effort to help consumers cope with natural gas rates that are set to jump next month.

The commission is operating a toll-free Energy Hot Line. West Virginians can call for tips on saving energy, payment options and other information.

A series of television and radio announcements started this week to inform people of the hot line, which can be reached at 1-800-344-5113.

The commission has issued orders granting Allegheny Energy's Mountaineer Gas, West Virginia Power Gas and Dominion Hope Gas increases of up to 26 percent.

The increases are expected to boost average monthly bills for home heating about $25 to $50 dollars beginning next month.

The rate increases reflect higher wholesale costs of natural gas across the United States rather than utility operating costs.

The PSC is advising consumers to turn down the thermostat and check into options utilities offer to spread payments over many months.


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