Gas rates may drop soon

Residential customers should see decrease on November bills

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BY JEFF SWANSON

Daily Press writer

Natural gas customers in Craig may be paying less if the same trends seen on the Front Range are any indication of what's to come.

This week, Xcel Energy, which supplies gas to a large portion of the eastern half of the state, filed for a gas cost adjustment with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), regulating their cost of natural gas over the last 12 months. Excel filed for its adjustment on Sept. 15, which the PUC approved, and customers will begin to notice the difference on their Oct. 1 bills.

Greeley Gas Company, which supplies the Craig area, purchases a small amount of gas from Excel Energy, most which is used on the Front Range.

Greeley Gas plans to file for its own gas price adjustment.

"The way things look right now, Greeley Gas customers should see a difference on their Nov. 1 bills," said Karen Wilkes, spokesperson for Greeley Gas. "Different companies file at different times of the year for their adjustments. Greeley will file on Oct. 15, and from everything that we have seen, the Commission should approve it as they have with the other companies."

According to Wilkes, the cost of natural gas has dropped dramatically over the last 12 months, which should make this winter more affordable for customers throughout the state, but she didn't know just what the impact would be on Northwest Colorado customers or how much savings they could see.

"Last January, customers were paying .691 cents for a therm of energy," Wilkes said. "This year, the price is .279 a therm. Unless there is a shortage, this will make a substantial difference for residential gas customers. People also need to remember that all of the gas that is used in Colorado is produced in Colorado, and that helps to keep the prices low for everyone."

Barbara Fernandez, public relations spokesperson with the PUC, agrees with Wilkes' assessment that customers should see a reduction on their next bill, and also believes the low prices should continue throughout the winter.

"It is always difficult to tell, because you can never predict how bad of a winter we are going to be facing," Fernandez said. "Throughout the country, though, natural gas prices are low right now. Hopefully, the tragic events of last week won't adversely affect prices, but as of this week, things are still looking good."

Unlike private businesses who can set their own prices for a product, natural gas companies are regulated by the PUC. They are not allowed to profit on the price of natural gas, so they must pass savings onto customers. Natural gas companies can make a profit for providing service, but that amount is also regulated by the PUC.

There is more good news for natural gas customers. A previously uncollected city sales tax is going to remain that way. Greeley Gas has decided to absorb the increase in cost, rather than collect it from local customers.

"We decided to just eat the cost rather than go through everything that it was going to take to get the money from residents," Wilkes said. "It isn't going to be a substantial amount of money after it would have been divided between the different customers, but it will be something that they won't have to pay."

According the City Finance Director Bruce Nelson, Greeley Gas will absorb $6,500 in city sales tax that was not collected from January to July after voters elected to change the city sales tax from 2 percent to 2.25 percent.

"We have already received the check," Nelson said. "I think they figured that it would just be easier to pay it than it would to have to inconvenience the customers."

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