As concern grows about the potential for high winter natural gas prices, the five commissioners of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) said they will preside over a public hearing on the issue on Sept. 18. The hearing will review current gas prices, discuss the forecasted supply and demand, outline programs to help consumers and increase consumer awareness related to gas prices for this winter.

Noting that gas prices may be considerably higher for the 2003-04 heating season. the commission said it will assess the potential impact of the forecasted prices on the natural gas industry and on Pennsylvania consumers through an en banc hearing, which will elicit comments from interested parties.

“The commission is eager to learn all we can from other state agencies, community-based organizations, consumers and the industry on what consumers can expect when they see their gas bills this winter,” PUC Commissioner Kim Pizzingrilli said. “We want to work with all parties to do everything we can to help gas customers prepare for this winter. We have low-income programs to help those who qualify, and utilities have budget billing to help make natural gas bills more affordable.”

Touting the benefits of budget billing — where high winter bills can be spread over the entire year — Pizzingrilli encouraged interested Pennsylvanians to contact their gas company to learn more about the practice. He added that while each monthly bill will be the same amount under budget billing, the company may adjust the bill four times a year, up or down, depending on the customer’s usage.

Scheduled to run from 1-4 p.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the Commonwealth Keystone Building State Office Building in Harrisburg, the hearing will be open to the general public.

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