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Rate Relief In Sigh

NW Natural expects to drop prices

NW Natural announced it expects to cut customer rates this fall by 10 percent or more, due to continuing lower wholesale costs.

"We're pleased to pass on the savings created by lower-than-expected market prices," said Mark Dodson, President and Chief Operating Officer. "We recognize that higher energy costs have created hardships for customers. Our goal is to bring rates down, and we're excited to be able to pass on these lower wholesale prices."

A 10 percent rate cut would mean about a $7 monthly decrease for the average residential customer using 68 therms a month.

NW Natural does not profit on the wholesale cost of gas itself and at least once a year adjusts its rates to reflect changes in the marketplace, said Randy Friedman, gas supply manager.

The gas company raised customer rates last fall by nearly 19 percent, citing higher wholesale market costs caused by increased demand, a temporary supply imbalance, and the previous winter's west coast energy crisis. Since then, the economic recession, federal electricity price caps, and more typical weather patterns have helped spur a decline in natural gas prices, Friedman said.

Also, far more natural gas is in storage across the nation compared to this time last year, and the resulting current decrease in gas purchasing has further relieved pressure on wholesale prices, he said.

As a result, NW Natural intends to file for a rate reduction with the Oregon Public Utility Commission this summer with an October 1 effective date.

The exact reduction can't yet be defined because NW Natural is still buying gas for this coming winter. However, based on purchases made to date, the company expects its customers will see at least a 10 percent reduction.

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