Natural gas utilities on the East and West Coasts are warning their customers that the high-flying wholesale gas prices are filtering down to the retail level and that they should expect hefty increases in the monthly bills during the third quarter.

Gas customers served by two of the three largest utilities in the Pittsburgh, PA, area will see their bills rise during the period, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The average residential customer of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, who uses about 10 Mcf a month, will see their bill rise 14.2% to $133.57 from $114.59 in the second quarter period.

At Equitable Gas Co., the average month natural gas bill is expected to rise to $115.74 during the same time frame, up 2.8% from the second quarter, the newspaper said.

Residential customers of Dominion Peoples Gas, however, are likely to see their bills for the period drop 3.5% to $107.46. “What we’ve seen is a slight decrease in market prices, not significant because they still are fairly high, but a slight dropoff,” Joe Gregorini. manager of the company’s pricing and regulatory affairs, told the Pittsburgh paper.

Columbia Gas warned its central Ohio customers that the price of natural gas will increase to 91 centers per hundred cubic foot of gas during the August through October period, up from 77 cents this summer.

Several things are driving up the cost, Columbia spokesman Steve Jablonski told Columbus Business First. Large industrial users are switching to natural gas to avoid high oil prices, and a recovering economy has a greater need for power.

But Jablonski sees the average homeowner’s bill falling next quarter as gas usage decreases. Columbia Gas estimates the average homeowner will pay $32.23 a month for gas this fall, down from $35.79 during the summer months.

On the West Coast, Oregon’s three natural gas utilities already are preparing customers for higher home heating bills this fall. Natural gas industry officials have told state regulators that rates could increase 10-15% to cover their escalating costs, according to an article in the Oregon Statesman Journal. The higher rates could go into effect by October.

The average residential customer of NW Natural uses 56 therms per month and spends $56.60 on their gas bill, the newspaper said. Rising wholesale gas prices could add $6.50 to more than $7.60 to a monthly bill, noted NW Natural spokesman Steve Sechrist.

The higher gas costs also are being felt in southern Idaho. On Wednesday, state regulators approved a nearly 10% hike in natural gas rates for Intermountain Gas Co.’s 230,000 customers, the Idaho Statesman reported.

As a result, the average residential customer using gas for both water and space heating will pay about $61.50 a month, up by about $5.50 per month or $66 a year. Customers using gas for space heating only will see their bills go up $4 to an average of $48 a month. The average monthly bill for commercial users will increase to $254 from $230.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission directed Intermountain Gas to reevaluate its natural gas rates as the winter heating season approaches. If gas prices should fall by then, regulators said the company should return to seek an adjustment in their rates, the Idaho newspaper reported.

Intermountain Gas officials said they would comply, but cautioned they are prepared to seek another rate increase if wholesale prices are higher at that time. The rake hikes approved Wednesday will raise an additional $22.1 million to cover the company’s gas purchase for next year.

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