Gas company announces rate cut

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WALLA WALLA — Natural gas customers will see their bills cool off this winter.

Customers of the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies will see a reduction in rates starting Nov. 1, according to an announcement Thursday from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The change, due to a decrease in wholesale natural gas costs, is expected to impact almost 2 million customers of Cascade Natural Gas, Avista, Puget Sound Energy and Northwest Natural Gas.

Cascade Natural Gas customers will see a decrease of almost 6 1/2 percent. For customers who use 57 therms, the savings will be about $4 a month.

Kennewick-based Cascade serves about 195,000 residential and business customers in 65 communities from Walla Walla to Bellingham.

The four gas companies are required to periodically adjust rates as wholesale prices change. According to the UTC, more than half to about two-thirds of customers’ monthly bills is attributable to the natural gas costs on which the companies are not allowed to earn a profit. The remainder of the bills covers the cost of delivering the service.

The utilities distribute natural gas but do not produce their own fuel. About half of the state’s natural gas supplies come from Alberta and British Columbia. The other half comes from Rocky Mountain production sites, including Wyoming.

According to the UTC, which regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities throughout the state, the rates could be subject to further revision. Commission staff will review the wholesale costs, as well as purchasing and hedging practices, of the natural gas companies to ensure they are appropriate.

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