The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) cut rates for the three major investor-owned natural gas utilities in the state, responding to the continuing low wholesale prices for gas. The new rates take effect Thursday. Portland, OR-based NW Natural, which separately received a small general rate hike, its first in 10 years (see Daily GPI, Oct. 31), will cut its rates by 6.9%, or about $4.36/month for a typical residential customer. Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities customers will see rates drop 7.7%, or on average about $4.78/month for residential customers. MDU Resources Group‘s Kennewick, WA-based Cascade Natural Gas Corp. rates were cut 17.3%, or a decrease on average of $9.79/month for a residential customer. A purchased gas adjustment allows the PUC to have the gas utilities adjust their rates up or down annually to reflect changes in the average price of gas supplies the utilities purchase on the interstate market.

Celanese Corp. will replace coal-fired boilers with natural gas-fired boilers as part of a $150 million renovation of its plant in Giles County in southwestern Virginia. The project is expected to create 22 new jobs and require about 200 construction workers, according to Gov. Bob McDonnell. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Giles County and the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance to secure the project for Virginia. McDonnell approved a $500,000 grant to assist Giles County with the project and approved a $1.5 million performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies. “This tremendous investment will allow the plant to improve its energy production capability, while positioning Celanese for profitable growth and job creation in the years ahead,” McDonnell said. Dallas-based Celanese produces acetyl products and vinyl acetate monomer.

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