Monthly gas bills to rise slightly

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Customers of all three Western Pennsylvania gas utilities will see slight increases in their monthly bills this winter.

The companies said the natural gas supply remains strong, in part thanks to drilling in the Marcellus Shale. All three registered quarter-to-quarter price increases, but Peoples and Equitable both registered price drops when rates are compared to the same quarter one year ago.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania increased its average monthly bill amount by $2.41 to $75.71. The company measures energy consumption in therm units, and the gas cost rate for this quarter is 54 cents per therm, or an increase of 3 cents from last quarter.

Equitable Gas increased its average monthly bill amount by $2.85 to $85.49. The company's gas cost rate increased 35 cents to $6.05 per Mcf.

Peoples Natural Gas increased its average monthly bill amount by $5.31 to $77.82. The company's gas cost rate increased 64 cents to $4.62 per Mcf.

The rates apply to the quarter that began on Jan. 1 and will last through March 31.

This may be one of the last utility rate cycles with three separate companies.

Peoples Natural Gas announced last month it plans to acquire Equitable Gas for $720 million, a move that would make it the largest utility in the region.

If approved by state and federal regulators, all Equitable customers would become Peoples customers.

The firms have not filed applications with the regulators yet but expect the approval process to take about one year.

The new rates were filed with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. State laws require companies to adjust rates because they're forbidden to make or lose money on fluctuating natural gas sales.

Budget customers whose rates are adjusted according to yearly changes are not subject to quarterly adjustments, and neither are customers who purchase gas from a company other than their utility.

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Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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