By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. said Tuesday it is raising its gas rates 3.3 percent, effective today.
The increase, part of the utility’s quarterly adjustment for gas supply charges, will raise the monthly bill of a typical NFG residential customer using 90,000 cubic feet of gas annually by $2.36, to $73.81 from $71.45. It will also bring the residential price to compare to 0.58601 cents per 100 cubic feet, which is an important reference point for customers shopping for an alternate gas supplier.
NFG submitted the new rate to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Pennsylvania utility companies are permitted to update gas supply charges quarterly to reflect changes in the market price of natural gas. By law, a utility can’t profit on the price it charges for natural gas.
Last spring natural gas prices were hovering under $2 a thousand cubic feet – at or near historic lows. Since then, wholesale prices have doubled to just over $4 per thousand cubic feet. However, prices are still well below the $8 range of several years ago and remain below European and Asian prices of $10 to $14.
“This increase is directly related to the increase in the market price of gas since the company decreased gas supply charges by 6.7 percent on Feb. 1, 2013,’’ said Sandra James, NFG’s director of corporate communications. “This current change reflects the cost of gas that has been, and will be, purchased by the company for its customers.’’
NFG’s next opportunity to adjust gas supply charges will be Aug. 1.
In a state-required annual filing, NFG forecasted a 9.2 percent increase for gas supply charges to be effective Aug. 1 through July 31, 2014. That forecast was based on information developed in December 2012, and remains on file with the PUC. Final rates developed in the annual filing will be determined based on market conditions.
NFG serves about 209,000 customers in 14 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, including Mercer County.
Customers having trouble paying their bills are encouraged to call National Fuel at 1-800-365-3234 to find out about payment programs and available services.