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Oregon Natural Gas Retail Rates to Increase Nov. 1

Retail rates for Oregon's three natural gas utilities will increase Nov. 1, but to a lesser extent than previously anticipated, the Oregon Public Utility Commission announced Wednesday. In each case the higher rates reflect higher wholesale commodity charges for gas, the PUC said.

Charges for Northwest Natural Gas customers will increase 3.5%, or $2.78/month for the average residential customer. Rates paid by Cascade Natural Gas customers will increase 7.9%, or $5.73/month. And rates for Avista Utilities natural gas utility customers in Oregon will increase 7.1%, or $5.30/month. Commercial/industrial rates will increase in ranges of 3.8-6.4%, 9.0-9.4% and 7.9-8.3%, respectively, for the three gas distribution companies.

"The silver lining is that the rate increases are less than the companies predicted to us back in mid-July and are not nearly as high as we experienced the last two years," said PUC Chairman Lee Beyer, noting the smaller increases are due to what he called "a combination of reduced demand, no major hurricanes to disrupt supply and increased domestic production."

The Oregon PUC adjusts the private sector gas utilities rates annually to reflect the actual cost of wholesale natural gas supplies. An annual gas-cost mechanism allows the utilities to pass through these costs without markup.

Regulators emphasize that the utilities make no added profit from the gas-cost rate adjustments and annually remind customers going into the winter heating season to contact their utilities for tips on how to cut their consumption.

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