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Published: Saturday, 1/16/2010

Columbia Gas seeks to keep rate low for February

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Customers of Columbia Gas of Ohio will continue to see savings in February despite a recent cold wave.

Columbia Gas yesterday filed its gas rate with state regulators, and the utility said it will charge 42 cents per cubic 100 feet, the lowest February rate since 1999.

A year ago, the utility charged 97 cents. This month, it charged 41 cents, the lowest January rate since 1999.

"That's an amazing price. I'm almost in shock," said Bob Eyre, vice president of Ohio Gas Co., the utility that serves several communities in northwest Ohio, including Defiance and Bryan.

"There has to be something else in their rate because there's nobody close to that. They're not even in the marketplace with that rate," he said.

Mr. Eyre said on the Nymex commodities market, natural gas supplies for February are trading at 72 cents per 100 cubic feet. Fixed rates, according to information supplied by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, are in the 70-cent and 80-cent range.

But on monthly variable rates, at least one other marketer, Direct Energy Services, is below Columbia Gas's rate. Direct Energy's monthly variable rate currently is 38 cents. Columbia Gas said its upcoming rate reflects market conditions.

A government report released Thursday showed that stockpiles of natural gas are well above average for this time of year even after two weeks of frigid weather. The report sent daily prices on the Nymex tumbling.

Since March, natural gas kept in underground caverns has remained at the high end of the five-year average of supplies. Experts said the surplus remains high because a poor economy has kept demand by industry and electric utilities at low levels.



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