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News Release
Winter Natural Gas Prices Topic of Commission Hearing
July 11, 2003 (2003 - 018)
Contacts:  Roy Hemmingway, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Lee Beyer, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR – The outlook for winter prices and supplies for natural gas will be the subject of a hearing before the Oregon Public Utility Commission July 16, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. in the main Commission hearing room in Salem. Officials from Oregon’s three natural gas distribution companies will be among those scheduled to share their insights with the Commission.
The Summer Outlook by the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) indicated while no one can accurately predict the price of natural gas, the NGSA expects upward pressure on natural gas prices this summer. High prices during the summer will likely translate to a rise in heating bills this winter. Summer Outlookreviewed five key factors that can impact the natural gas market: the weather, economy, demand, storage, and supply.
Wholesale natural gas prices have been rising throughout the United States due to the fact that low volumes of gas in storage need to be replaced, a cold winter in much of U.S. diminished supplies and low amounts and production levels from new gas wells in the U.S. and Canada are below previous flow levels.
In recent testimony to Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said this year’s jump in wholesale natural gas prices likely would be protracted. Prospects for higher natural gas prices could also create pressure for higher electric rates, as well, because many companies rely on natural gas to generate electricity.
The three natural gas companies in Oregon which serve a total of 627,000 customers are: Northwest Natural Gas, Avista and Cascade. Northwest Natural serves over 500,000 customers, Avista about 82,000 and Cascade more than 45,000.
In order to minimize the impact of higher gas prices, consumers are encouraged to take preventive measures. The Commission suggests consumers consider insulating their home, lowering their thermostat, tuning up their heating system, wrapping their hot water heater, insulating pipes and checking with their utility to find out if budget billing is available.