By The Associated Press|
(Wed. January 31, 2001) Consumers Gas Utility Co. can raise rates it
charges its 8,500
customers, the state public Service Commission says.
The commission issued the rate increase order Monday; it is effective
for natural gas service
rendered beginning today.
Consumers gas serves customers in Putnam, Jackson, Cabell, Ritchie,
Roane and wayne
"The harsh winter and escalating gas prices across the country have
required the PSC to grant
this increase," said david Ellis, chief advisor to the commission. If
natural gas costs decrease,
the company will be required to lower its rates, Ellis said.
The rate increase should raise the average residential customer's bill
by $22 per month, the
PSC said. The increase allows consumers gas to charge $5.98 per
thousand cubic feet of gas,
up from the current $4.29.
"While the increase is considerable, the companies must be permitted
to recover the money
they prudently pay to buy natural gas supplies, in order to continue
providing utility service," the
PSC's order states.
The commission also ordered its staff to review the company's
purchasing practices. A public
hearing on the matter has been set for 10 a.m. April 12 at the PSC's
Nationally, natural gas prices increased by about 137 percent between
September 1998 and
September 2000, according to the U.S. Department of energy. The cold
winter - the most
severe following several mild winters - has increased demand further,
sending gas prices even
About 90 percent of West Virginia's natural gas customers are
protected from higher prices
because of voluntary rate freezes agreed to by Mountaineer Gas Co. and
Dominion Hope, the
biggest companies operating in West Virginia.