By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
MERCER COUNTY —
National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. customers will find it easier to turn up the heat as the company said it was lowering rates by 5.2 percent for the next three months.
Effective today, monthly gas costs for a typical NFG residential customer will go from $79.73 to $75.60, a savings of $4.13.
The rate decreased due to lower than expected costs NFG bought from August to September. Gas utilities are allowed to adjust costs to its customers on a quarterly basis on the price it pays for natural gas. By law, a utility isn’t allowed to profit on the price it charges for natural gas. The gas supply charge also includes charges the company must pay to transport and store gas for its customers.
Residential customers comparing the utility costs to offers from other natural gas suppliers should use NFG’s “price to compare’’ cost of 0.54559 cents per hundred cubic feet.
Gas costs differ from the delivery service charge, which represents the utility’s cost of doing business, which also is regulated by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The delivery cost for NFG haven’t changed since January 2007.
Lower costs are due, in part, to increased production of Marcellus Shale gas.
“Winter bills are typically higher due to increased consumption,’’ said Sandra James, NFG’s director of corporate communications. “The good news is that this winter customers will be paying slightly less for the commodity than last year and 43 percent less than five years ago.’’
NFG offers a number of programs to help those who are having trouble paying their bills and advises customers to contact a customer assistance representative to discuss their situation and receive information about any of the following assistance programs:
• Budget Plan – A way for customers to have level, predictable monthly gas payments and helps customers stabilize their monthly heating bill for the year.
• Low-Income Residential Assistance Program – Offers stable bills, reduced rates, and debt forgiveness.
• Low Income Usage Reduction Program – Offers weatherization assistance for customers who have high usage and meet other requirements.
• Customer Assistance Referral Evaluation Services – Can help qualifying customers facing extreme hardships with payment arrangements and assistance referrals.
• Deferred Payment Agreement – Allows for the potential to negotiate a payment plan in the event of a problem or special circumstance.
• Neighbor For Neighbor Heat Fund – Open year round and helps qualified customers meet basic energy needs. To be eligible, you must be at least 55 years old, or disabled, or currently receiving unemployment benefits, or have a certified medical condition and difficulty paying your bills.
In addition, LIHEAP, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, opens Monday. This federally-funded program accepts applications based on income guidelines and monies are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. For additional information, visit LIHEAPhelps.com or contact 877-443-2743.
NFG serves about 214,000 customers in 14 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania including Mercer County.
To find out more about any of these programs, customers can call NFG at 800-365-3234 or visit the company’s website at www.nationalfuelgas.com.