The American Gas Association (AGA) called on Congress Friday to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to avoid a crisis situation this winter heating season.

“Energy costs have increased and the number of needy families has increased, but LIHEAP dollars have been frozen in time,” said Steve Crout, AGA’s managing director of government relations.

The AGA is requesting emergency funds of $600 million in addition to the regular appropriations level of $1.911 billion already approved by the House of Representatives in the fiscal year 2005 spending bill for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. Congress will be under the gun to complete work on all appropriations bills when it returns for a lame-duck session this week.

In a letter to individual representatives, AGA President David Parker cited the Energy Information Administration’s latest forecast that natural gas prices will be 15% higher this heating season than last winter, while heating oil and propane gas prices will be 37% and 26% above last year’s levels, respectively. It further pointed to a report released earlier this year, which said that while five million houses received energy assistance in 2001, another 25 million eligible households went without any assistance. This left more than 80% of the eligible households without LIHEAP benefits, it noted.

The AGA represents 192 local energy utility companies that deliver natural gas to more than 53 million homes, businesses and industries throughout the United States.

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