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News Release
Commission Warned of Higher Natural Gas Prices This Fall and Winter
July 20, 2006 (2006-13)
Contacts: Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ken Zimmerman, Utility Gas Analyst, 503 373-1583; Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR –While temperatures heat up outside, the Oregon Public Utility Commission was warned today to expect higher natural gas prices this coming heating season.
Officials with NW Natural Gas, Avista Utilties, and Cascade Natural Gas told the Commission they will be filing requests soon to raise their rates as part of the annual Purchase Gas Adjustment (PGA).  The companies pass through their actual cost of purchasing gas, without any mark-up to customers, and make no additional profit from these rate adjustments.  When prices go down, customers rates are also reduced.
Company officials predicted the following residential rate increases:
  • 4 to 12% for NW Natural Gas
  • 6 to 10% for Cascade Natural Gas
  • 6 to 8% for Avista Gas            
Commission gas analyst Ken Zimmerman said, “We are continuing to see a tight supply environment and a lot of fear of future unknowns, which is keeping wholesale prices high. There is also increased pipeline capacity for delivering gas from the Rocky Mountain and Canadian Regions to the Midwest and Northeast where prices are higher. These are sources Oregon has historically relied on for its natural gas supplies.”   
“Future unknowns are fear of another devastating hurricane season, extreme summer/winter weather in the country, and possible disruptions in supply,” Zimmerman added.
NW Natural serves customers in Northwest Oregon. Avista Gas serves portions of Southwest and Northeastern Oregon while Cascade Natural Gas serves Central Oregon in the Bend region.
The companies will submit their filings to the Commission in late August.  Commission staff will analyze the requests with a decision expected in September.  Customer rates would change effective October 1, 2006.
Natural gas prices have risen steadily for all three gas utilities serving Oregon since 2003.