(09/04/2008)
UPDATE: State officials say there has been little official outcry about the increasing of natural gas rates.

By Bob Weaver

With one of the biggest natural gas booms happening in the Mountain State, home and business costs for gas could rise dramatically this winter.

There must be a shortage.

Virtually all of the natural gas suppliers operating in the state have filed new rate requests with the Public Service Commission.

Rate increase requests range from 20% to 46% more than last year, according to Consumer Advocate Byron Harris.

"The only time we've been faced with increases of this magnitude was after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina took out a lot of natural gas production in the Gulf in 2005," Harris said.

"These are unprecedented levels, really, of gas prices absent some sort of natural disaster like a hurricane."

Mountaineer Gas, the largest gas company in West Virginia, has requested rates for the upcoming winter that are 42% higher than last winter.

It's a request that includes the 28% rate increase that went into effect in July.

The second largest increase is Dominion Hope, with a requested rate increase that is 42.5% higher total than last winter.

Dominion's 42.5% request includes a 30% increase that has already been granted this year.

Equitable Gas is asking for a 46% rate increase. No July increases were implemented for Equitable customers.

"It's still a shock when you're talking about a 40% increase in bills," says Harris.

Harris said the Consumer Advocates Division of the Public Service Commission, will be working to bring down those increases before they're approved in October.

The final natural gas rates for 2008 will take effect on November first.


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