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News Release
Commission Approves Request to Return $32 million to NW NaturalCustomers
May 19, 2009 (2009-004)
Contacts:  Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR.  Customers of NW Natural gas will receive a one-time refund that will reduce their rates by 3.4% effective June 1, 2009.  Today the Oregon Public Utility Commission approved the return of $32 million to customers because NW Natural has saved money when it bought natural gas on the wholesale market between November 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.
“With many households facing challenges to pay their bills we want these savings passed along as soon as possible,” Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said.  “Under normal conditions we would make this adjustment in the fall, but these are not normal times.” 
For example, a residential customer who used 92 therms per month during this five month period would receive a credit of approximately $33.00.  A commercial customer that used 383 therms per month would receive approximately $137.00.
"NW Natural has been aggressive in saving dollars for its customers, and by law the company could have waited till November to pass those savings back to its customers. Instead, NW Natural was pro-active and came to the OPUC seeking to refund these savings now,” the Chairman added.
Last summer the US natural gas price hit an all-time high due to an increase in demand and widespread worries about future domestic gas supply availability.  In the intervening months that price has dropped by nearly half. “The drop in prices is the result of a massive increase in US gas supply (mostly from unconventional drilling) and a substantial decrease in demand for gas due to the economic recession and improved energy efficiency,” said Commission analyst Ken Zimmerman.  “Prices are expected to rise if the summer is warmer than normal due to increased demand for gas-fired electric generation for air conditioning or winter is colder than normal.  But prices are expected to remain below what we saw in 2008.”
The Commission will make its annual Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) this fall to reflect the actual cost of the wholesale price of natural gas for Oregon’s three natural gas companies. This allows the companies to pass through their actual cost of purchasing gas. There is no markup of the price.