Dominion Hope customers will be paying about $40 less on average this winter, thanks to lower natural gas costs and a settlement with the state Public Service Commission.

Following an agreement with the PSC, Dominion Hope agreed to pay a $2.3 million dollar credit to its customers.

The settlement is linked to a 2005 complaint that the utility was charging too much.

Consumer Advocate Division Director Byron Harris said the main reason for the 18 percent rate cut is that the price of natural gas is down.

Harris said the PSC is still investigating a former Dominion Hope executive's allegations that the utility manipulated natural gas supplies and prices.

Dominion Hope denies the former employees allegations.

Dominion Hope, which is West Virginia's second-largest gas provider, has about 116,500 gas-service customers in 32 counties.