The Natural Gas Council on Friday warned the ClintonAdministration and Congress of abnormally high natural gas pricesthis winter and requested additional funding for the Low-IncomeHome Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for low-income households.

The Council, which is a group of senior executives representingall sectors of the gas industry, also urged the president toconvene a special meeting between the administration, the counciland Canada’s National Energy Board to “discuss issues affectingnatural gas in the near term and actions both industry andgovernments can take to ensure adequate supplies are delivered tomarkets.”

“The United States currently imports 14% of our natural gas fromCanada, and the National Petroleum Council estimates that we willincrease our imports from Canada by 33% in the next 10 years,” thecouncil noted. “But concerns are being expressed in the U.S. mediaabout the available supply for this winter’s heating season, andalthough we are confident that enough natural gas exists to servethe market, an open dialogue between governments and industry couldhelp our understanding of the supply situation, in addition tohelping shape future agreements to further improve our workingrelationships.”

In letters to both House Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young(R-FL) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK), thecouncil explained that the price of natural gas in the spot andfutures markets has reached record levels because of strong demanddue to the robust economy and the drilling decline of the past twoyears during a period of sharply lower prices.

“The good news is that producers are already vigorouslycompeting with each other to increase gas supplies….. However,due to the continued high demand for natural gas and the historictime lag between increased drilling activity and a price response,consumers may pay significantly more for each unit of natural gasthis winter than they did last winter.”

The Council urged the lawmakers to order the early release ofemergency LIHEAP funds. “Just as electricity bills are hittingCalifornians hard this summer, consumers in the Northeast andMidwest regions may face high heating bills this winter,” thecouncil told the president. “In addition, we are concerned that theAdministration’s request for FY2001 ($1.1 billion, with $300million available for emergency release) may not be adequate…..Current LIHEAP funding can serve only 12% to 15% of eligiblehouseholds and these recipients could need up to 35% moreassistance this winter.”

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