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Published: Friday, 10/14/2005

Columbia proposes 3-cent drop in gas rate

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Customers of Columbia Gas of Ohio will get a break on their heating fuel rates next month, but it likely won't translate into lower bills.

The predominant metro Toledo utility proposed a rate of $1.29 per 100 cubic feet of natural gas yesterday for its November billing period, a drop of 3 cents from the rate this month. The change is to take effect Oct. 27.

The proposed decrease is the company's first since prices jumped higher than $1 per 100 cubic feet this past summer. But it is 42 cents more - or 32 percent higher - than the rate of November, 2004.

The reason for the drop next month? Columbia Gas had estimated its costs too high a month ago compared to expenses it incurred for buying the fuel, spokesman Ray Frank said.

The utility's upcoming rate, subject to approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, seems like a bargain compared to offerings by independent suppliers serving northwest Ohio. Customers are permitted to select another provider from a state list.

Of eight suppliers offering service in Columbia Gas territory, only one, Commerce Energy, had a rate comparable to Columbia's. But it was a variable rate subject to change monthly. Other providers were 8 to 30 cents per 100 cubic feet higher.

Consumers can compare rates by going to the PUCO Web site at www.puc.state.oh.us/Puco/ApplesToApples and then clicking on Columbia Gas. The rates also are available at branches of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Even with a lower rate in November from Columbia Gas, spokesman Mr. Frank said customer bills will be higher than this month's because colder weather will prompt more use of heating systems, and thus more natural gas consumption.

The average consumption by a homeowner in November is Lucas County Public Library.

Even with a lower rate in November from Columbia Gas, spokesman Mr. Frank said customer bills will be higher than this month's because colder weather will prompt more use of heating systems, and thus more natural gas consumption.

The average consumption by a homeowner in November is 7,000 cubic feet, which would mean a bill of $114.

That compares with an average bill of $53 for of 3,000 cubic feet in October.

Residents of Lucas County, Northwood, Perrysburg, and Lake Township, which are in a bulk buying group, can opt to buy the heating fuel more cheaply than from Columbia Gas.

If residents decide to participate in the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition, they will be served by Interstate Gas Supply and save up to $30 for the winter, the group announced this week. To sign up or for information call 1-877-444-7427.

October's is Columbia Gas' highest rate ever.

It is 45 percent higher than a year ago and double that of three years ago.

Les Nishida, a specialist at WPS/FSG Energy Services Inc., one of the natural gas providers in metro Toledo, said the fuel prices are not likely to go higher unless the Midwest has a bitter winter.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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