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Gas Rates To Climb Three Percent

Effective Jan. 1

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved an all-party settlement agreement that allows Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWNG) to increase base natural gas rates for residential, commercial and industrial customers in Washington an average of 2.98 percent.

The base rate refers to the cost of delivering the gas; the cost of the gas itself fluctuates with market prices and is usually adjusted annually.

For the average residential customer the increase will be approximately 3.5 percent or about $3.20 -- to $93.75 a month. The company has not requested a base rate increase since July 2004. The change becomes effective Jan. 1, 2009, and covers the increased costs of providing service.

The monthly increase for a typical household includes a $2 increase in the basic service charge, from $5 to $7. Originally, the utility had proposed a $7 increase in the basic monthly service charge that all customers pay regardless of the amount of natural gas used.

NWNG also agreed to create a low-income energy bill assistance program, revitalize its low-income weatherization program and create a new energy efficiency program for its customers in Washington.

The settling parties were: NWNG, UTC staff, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, the NW Energy Coalition, the Energy Project, representing low-income ratepayers, and the Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General's Office, which represents the interests of residential and commercial customers. The settlement was filed on Oct. 21.

Portland based NWNG operates in Oregon and Washington, serving 65,000 customers in: Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties.

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