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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Gas charges confusing, not criminal

In response to the Feb. 25 article "Sarantou wants hearing on gas rates," it appears that there is a significant amount of confusion over the price that consumers pay for natural gas. It is essential to consider that there are two major forces at work. First is the price of natural gas itself, which constitutes about 75 percent of customers' bills.

Natural gas has something in common with its close relatives, oil, gasoline, and coal: All are hitting all-time price highs and none are regulated. Natural gas prices are not regulated by the PUCO; they are subject to markets thousands of miles away just like other energy sources. The PUCO ensures that the utility does not profit on the natural gas itself - what the utility pays is exactly what the customer pays.

It is true that the prices passed through to customers in Michigan are lower than those in Ohio. This is due in large part to the ability of the Michigan utility to store natural gas in vast quantities ahead of the time of peak demand, as well as the different interstate pipelines that feed the Michigan utilities. Our audits have determined that Columbia does not have that luxury.

Second is the price that the customers pay for having that gas delivered to homes and businesses. This is a regulated price that comprises about 25 percent of the total bill and is set by the PUCO.

The most recent case establishing and freezing that rate was supported by many parties including the City of Toledo and the Lucas County Commissioners.

The profits earned on this distribution rate vary year to year. Obviously, the colder the temperatures the faster the meters spin and the higher the bills. In warmer years the opposite is true.

The PUCO has found that rates currently in effect generate fair returns on average over time to Columbia. The many parties that signed the 2004 agreement, again including the City of Toledo and county commissioners, apparently agree.

In short, the entire country is plagued this year by natural gas prices that are near historic highs. The same can be said for other similar fuels; just get in line at the gas station! The remedy rests with our nation's energy policy going forward.

Meanwhile, the PUCO remains vigilant in its scrutiny of the purchasing practices of Ohio's natural gas companies.

Alan R. Schriber, Chairman

Public Utilities Commission

of Ohio, Columbus

I would like the mayor and others to know that the reason many don't put their recyclables out for collection is that the city is too selective. That doesn't mean that we aren't recycling, it only means that the city isn't profiting from it.

I was setting out a 30-gallon garbage container about once a month, but it was left with about half of the contents still in the container. I had been under the assumption that anything that had the recycling triangle with a number in it was recyclable, and it is, but the city only takes No. 2 and No. 3.

Now, some may just say forget it, but many of us still recycle and take garbage bags full to the recycling containers at the grocery stores.

BARBARA SILER

Harvest Lane

The gasoline in my tank is now worth more than my car.

What if I can't afford to buy the gas to go to work to earn the money to buy the stamps to send the check for the gas (Columbia) to heat the house that I still owe Jack for?

Just musing while paying bills.

EVELYN REASTER

Maumee



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