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Puget Sound Energy seeks to lower natural gas rates by 7.7 percent

Puget Sound Energy today filed a request with Washington state regulators to decrease natural gas rates for the upcoming winter season by an overall 7.7 percent, effective Nov. 1, 2012.

If approved by the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the proposed Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) decrease will lower a typical household’s natural gas bill (based on 68 therms of average monthly usage over a 12-month period) by 7.1 percent, or $5.82, to $76.59. That is about what PSE customers were paying in 2009. Commercial rates will drop by about 8 percent.

An abundant domestic supply of natural gas has lowered wholesale natural gas prices, which reached a 10-year low earlier this year. With today’s energy prices, heating a home with oil is more than three times more expensive than with natural gas. Electric heating in the Puget Sound region is about 1.5 to 2 times more costly than natural gas heat.

The PGA is a UTC-approved mechanism that allows Washington state’s natural gas utilities to periodically adjust rates, up or down, to reflect changes in the price of the natural gas supplies that utilities purchase and deliver to customers. PSE does not financially profit or lose on the cost of natural gas purchased for customers.

PSE’s request to lower natural gas bills is on the heels of a pending request with state regulators to increase the amount of the funding fee for the utility’s low-income assistance program. If approved, the monthly fee will increase by 21 cents for a typical residential electric customer and 9 cents for a typical residential natural gas customer. The new fee would provide more than $15.5 million annually in bill-payment assistance grants to more than 31,000 households under PSE HELP (Home Energy Lifeline Program).

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