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PSC says customers can expect lower natural gas rates this winter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Most West Virginia natural gas customers will see a slight decrease in their gas bills this winter.

That’s because natural gas prices are lower and gas utilities are passing the reduced rate along to their customers, the Public Service Commission announced on Monday.

Hope Gas/Dominion Energy serves 35 counties in West Virginia, and customers will see their bills go down about $2 per month, a 3 percent decrease, said Dominion spokeswoman Samantha Norris.

Mountaineer Gas, which along with Dominion, serves 91 percent of the state’s natural gas customers, has asked for a rate decrease of 3.91 percent.

The PSC explained that gas utilities file “Purchased Gas Adjustment” cases with the agency. Utilities are legally allowed to recover the costs of buying their gas. Their rates are adjusted annually through PGA proceedings before the commission.

The PGA is an estimate of expected purchase prices for the period of Nov. 1 through Oct. 31 of the following year, plus a “true up” of prices actually paid for the previous year. The PGA is a direct pass-through; no profit is included.

Dominion’s current PGA rate is $3.733 and will fall to $3.402 effective Nov. 1, pending PSC approval. That’s a difference of $0.331 (33 cents), or 8.87 percent, Norris said. The 33 cent cut will amount to a $2 decrease in the average residential customer’s bill.

Five companies, serving 8.5 percent of residential natural gas customers, requested an increase in their PGA due to under-recovery of gas costs in 2018 and, in some cases, projected higher gas prices being charged by their suppliers, the PSC said.

“The commission does not regulate the price of natural gas; that price is determined by competitive markets,” the PSC said. “The commission does examine the gas purchasing practices of gas utilities and ensures the utility satisfies its burden to show that dependable, lower-priced gas supplies are not readily available.”

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