Dominion Hope's residential customers can expect to pay another $8.55 a month for natural gas under an agreement announced yesterday.

The agreement between Dominion Hope and the Public Service Commission allows the Clarksburg based utility to raise its rates by 8.5%. It also freezes Dominion Hope's natural gas rates until January 1, 2004.

In March, Dominion Hope requested a 53% rate hike. Since then, the wholesale price of natural gas plummeted, and the utility signed long-term contracts at much lower prices.

Under yesterday's agreement, an average homeowner's monthly bill will increase from $98.89 to $107.43.

The Public service Commission did not say when the new rate would go into effect.

Dominion Hope provides natural gas service to customers in 32 counties.

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