Noting that prices are still at what it called record-high levels, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Thursday that residential natural gas utility customers can expect their monthly bills to be about $26.61 more in November than they were in the same month a year ago. The utility company said that is nearly a 50% hike (49.6%).

In November of last year, PG&E said it paid about 74.3 cents/therm for supplies which in this month it paid an average of $1.23/therm, and in November for which it will pay an average of $1.29/therm.

"The damage caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina is still having a major impact on natural gas prices, as the labor-intensive job of repairing damaged rigs and pipelines continues in the Gulf of Mexico," PG&E's utility said in a prepared announcement on its upcoming gas prices, called a "Natural Gas Watch." The utility said that the cumulative amount of natural gas production curtailed since the two storms is more than 342 Bcf, equivalent to what the PG&E gas utility customers use in five months.

Noting that it has an added natural gas price hedging program in place since getting state regulatory approval earlier in the month, the utility said procurement costs for supplies went up 5.1% from October, "reflecting the traditional rise in prices associated with greater demand for gas in the winter."

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