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Old September 30, 2005, 09:11 AM   #1
Bobshouse
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Here we go again....

Natural-gas rates boosted to record levels

State energy regulators approved higher natural-gas rates for more than 700,000 Western Washington customers yesterday, allowing the highest rates in state history.

Puget Sound Energy and Northwest Natural Gas customers in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Kittitas, Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties will see their bills go up 12 to 15 percent starting next month.

The rates approved by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) will increase the average Puget Sound Energy gas bill about $11 a month. Northwest Natural Gas customers will see average bills climb about $9.20 a month.

On Oct. 26, the UTC, which regulates natural-gas rates, will consider increases proposed for the rest of the state.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the state's largest natural-gas provider, serves more than 683,000 customers; Northwest Natural Gas, about 60,000.

The increases are the latest approved in the past several years and follow those for other energy sources, including gasoline. Natural-gas prices have risen annually except in 2002, UTC spokeswoman Marilyn Meehan said.

Last year, PSE raised its rates about 16 percent.

The companies blamed the increases on higher wholesale prices, which Meehan said are due to increased demand and limited supply.

Other parts of the country face dramatic increases in the aftermath of two Gulf Coast hurricanes, but the Washington increases aren't related to the storms, Meehan said. Because companies here buy natural gas in advance and on contracts, any effect of the hurricanes wouldn't be felt until next year.
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Old September 30, 2005, 09:34 AM   #2
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