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Published: Thursday, 11/25/2004

Bills will grow by $6 under new proposal

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Columbia Gas of Ohio customers will face 5 percent higher rates starting Monday.

The move, which will raise an average family's December bill to $154 from the current $148, follows the Ohio Public Utility Commission's rejection on Tuesday of a bigger rate request. Its new requested rate is 92 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas, up from 88 cents now but down from the emergency 99 cents it originally sought.

The original request, which was made after wholesale prices of natural gas began to skyrocket, encountered considerable opposition because it came just three weeks after the area's dominant utility introduced new rates for December and January.

The utility responded that it was exercising its right to recover the price it pays for gas on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Commissioners complained, however, that prices had moderated since Columbia Gas submitted the proposal, and they instructed the utility to submit a rate yesterday that more closely matched current wholesale prices.

The new rate, expected to be permitted by state regulators, takes effect Nov. 29 and lasts through Dec. 29. A new rate will be sought in late December for January. The 88-cent rate approved in October was supposed to last from November through January.

The Columbia Gas rate a year ago was 69 cents.

Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio Consumer's Counsel, opposed the utility's original increase request but said yesterday she was satisfied with the revised rate.

"We think the [rate] filing is reflective of the current wholesale market prices," she said. "It's what we asked the commission for."

PUCO officials want to talk with Columbia Gas about permanently switching to a monthly schedule for setting rates rather than the current quarterly schedule, a spokesman said. Two utilities in Ohio set rates monthly.

Another natural gas supplier in northwest Ohio, Dominion East Ohio, was authorized yesterday to boost rates to 93 cents per 100 cubic feet from 88 cents.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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