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Published: Wednesday, 11/16/2005

Columbia Gas rate stays flat for month

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Columbia Gas of Ohio customers will catch a small break in the cost of heating their homes next month, but even so, bills will be rising.

In its monthly filing yesterday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the utility sought a December rate of $1.29 per 100 cubic feet, virtually the same price it charged this month.

But a typical consumer uses 12,000 cubic feet of gas in December, which would mean a bill of about $195, compared with 7,000 cubic feet in November, which equals a bill of about $114.

Chris Kozak, a Columbia Gas spokesman, the wholesale prices for natural gas have fluctuated.

"It's my understanding that after we filed last time the prices dropped, and then recently went up on the markets," he said. "Then, they fell again in the last several days before we filed."

The firm's requested December rate is 0.4 cent less than the November rate. Still, both are significantly higher than last December's 92 cents.

Les Nishida, an industry specialist at WPS/FSG Energy Services Inc. of Green Bay, Wis., said prices have fallen this month, "but where they end up for December is still largely unknown because where they get set isn't usually known until the last few days of the month."

Warm weather so far this fall has helped keep wholesale rates stable, but a cold snap the next two weeks could make December prices soar, he said.

Neil Durbin, a spokesman for Dominion East Gas Co. in northeastern Ohio, said pipeline disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina combined with strong demand for the home heating fuel mean that a brief cold snap can have a large impact on winter prices.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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