NATURAL GAS PRICES SKYROCKETING - Mountaineers Prices Up 75% Since 2000-2001

While consumers are hit with gasoline prices starting at $2.11 a gallon, the cost of natural gas heating is also skyrocketing.

This month natural gas prices are rising up to 40% more around West Virginia.

The PSC says consumers will be paying at least 50% more (average) for natural gas this winter than they did two years ago.

Since the winter of 2000-2001 rates for Mountaineer, the state's largest gas company, have spiked more than 75 percent.

Warm winter weather may be the only thing that could bring consumers a little relief.

The state's five largest gas utilities will take their increases this month.

Most of the current hikes are purchased-gas increases, whereby gas companies annually adjust their rates to reflect the cost of the gas they buy.

"It's really been a roller coaster," said Billy Jack Gregg of the Public Service Commission.

A typical bill (13,000) for a small dwelling will be about $150 a month, but if that dwelling is not energy efficient, the bill could be much more.

"The immediate problem is getting through this winter, especially for people on low or fixed incomes. The problem is no matter what we do, it doesn't seem to be affordable any more," said Gregg.

If open-market gas costs go higher than originally estimated, gas rates could still go upward.