Aquila seeks 42.5% rate hike

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Aquila, the natural gas provider for Marshall residents, has filed a request with the Missouri Public Service Commission to increase its purchased gas adjustment charge by 42.5 percent.

The new purchased gas charge for residential and commercial customers would be $1.14 per Ccf (one Ccf equals 100 cubic feet) of gas compared to the current charge of 80 cents per Ccf. Aquila's southern system, covered under the rate increase request, includes Marshall, Lexington and Sedalia. If approved, the new rate will take effect Nov. 9.

In a press release, Aquila estimated the typical residential customer with a 1,500-square-foot house uses about 560 Ccf of natural gas during the typical winter heating season of November through March. With the increase requested, the utility estimated customers would spend an average of $58 more each month.

Aquila stated that the filing "reconciles the amount Aquila charges customers for natural gas and the price it actually pays for the gas."

"Our basic charge for the services we provide in delivering natural gas to our customers remains the same. The increase represents only the increased cost of gas we purchase from suppliers," Ivan Vancas, operating vice president for the companies Missouri natural gas networks, said in a release. "Unfortunately, U.S. natural gas prices are at very high levels and this is reflected in our PGA (purchased gas adjustment) filing. Gas utilities and their customers throughout the U.S. are being affected by these higher gas costs."

Among the factors listed by Aquila as contributing to the higher price of natural gas were the effects of recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region, U.S. gas storage levels being 3 percent lower than the same time last year and only 3 percent above the five-year average, stagnant natural gas production within the U.S. and higher worldwide oil prices.

To help deal with higher gas bills this winter, the company said customers can make use of its StreamLINE option to level payments over a 12-month period and stated it will be increasing its contribution to the Aquila Cares program -- giving from $100,000 up to $500,000 across its seven-state area by matching customer and employee contributions dollar for dollar up to a total of $250,000. The program helps pay energy bills and make emergency repairs to heating and cooling equipment.

Vancas also recommended that residents wanting to lower their natural gas bills over the winter can:

-- have their furnace checked by a professional annually,

-- adjust the thermostat during the day and at night, setting it at a maximum of 68 degrees during the day and lower at night,

-- lower the temperature setting on hot water heaters,

-- use cold water whenever possible,

-- check furnace filters monthly and replace as needed,

-- don't block heating vents with furniture or clutter,

-- caulk and seal around windows and doors,

-- add insulation in the home's attic, and

-- install a "setback" thermostat that will automatically lower temperature settings at night and other designated times.

Contact Mark Lile at

marshalleditor@socket.net

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