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State approves third reduction this year in natural gas rates for Avista customers
 
Oct. 29, 2009
Docket Number: UG-091462

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Thanks to a continued decline in wholesale natural gas prices, state regulators have approved a third request by Avista this year to reduce natural gas rates – this time by more than 25 percent.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today approved the utility’s request to lower natural gas rates due to an abundant supply and a steep decline in wholesale natural gas prices.

“I am pleased that for the time being, natural gas customers will receive a significant break on their winter heating bills,” said UTC Chairman Jeff Goltz.

The company’s initial filing would have resulted in a decrease for an average residential customer using 70 therms a month of about $16. The UTC required Avista to refund excess amounts over one year rather than two, as proposed by the company. Due to the change, the average customer using 70 therms will save $20 a month for a revised bill of about $59.

Two other rate reductions were approved for Avista natural gas customers by the UTC in January and May, totaling more than 11 percent.

Natural gas companies are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect changes in wholesale prices. About 75 percent of an Avista customer’s monthly bill is attributable to the cost of natural gas of which the company is not allowed to collect a profit.

The commission decision made today on Avista’s rate requests are separate from the general rate case filed by the company in January. In that proceeding, a partial settlement has been reached and the UTC is expected to make a final decision before the end of the year.

Spokane-based Avista serves nearly 146,000 natural gas customers in 10 counties, primarily in Eastern Washington.

The three-member state commission regulates the private, investor-owned natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
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