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Published: Thursday, 11/2/2000

Columbia Gas prices rise 18% to likely record

Columbia Gas of Ohio's natural-gas prices for residential customers increased 18 per cent yesterday to what is thought to be a record. The new price is 2.5 times that of five years ago.

Prices for the regulated utility, which provides service to most of the metropolitan Toledo area, increased to 74 cents per 100 cubic feet of natural gas yesterday from 63 cents.

The rate is changed quarterly, as Columbia Gas is permitted to seek a charge that allows it to cover its costs, and the rate change is approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The new rate will be in effect through Jan. 1.

November prices have ranged from 30 cents to 48 cents per 100 cubic feet.

A service charge billed by Columbia Gas did not change, but with the rate boost a typical residential bill will increase about 13 per cent, to $100.61 from $88.90, based on a monthly average.

Rates from several independent gas suppliers were less yesterday. FSG Energy Services, for instance, charged 63 per 100 cubic feet on a variable plan, and Columbia Energy Services, a sister company of Columbia Gas, charged 73 cents for a one-year fixed plan.

Most energy costs are high this year, and some experts say natural-gas prices might remain high for two to three years because of limited exploration and production resulting from the previous low prices. Although shortages generally are not expected, resumed drilling for gas supplies will take time to bolster depleted inventories, experts say.

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