August 14, 2008

Your Heat Bill’s Going Up … ; Start Planning for a Significant Pocketbook Hit Starting in January, When Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power Natural-Gas Rates Will Skyrocket 79% Over Last January

By Bill McCarthy

By Bill McCarthy

[email protected]

CHEYENNE - Your January heating bill will be 79 percent higher than it was last January, according to estimates released Wednesday.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission released an estimated bill comparison for January 2008 and January 2009 for Wyoming natural- gas utilities.

'The smaller the family budget, the greater the impact of a change like this," warned Chris Petrie, PSC secretary and chief counsel.

That estimate shows a rise of about 32 percent across the state, but the estimate on a Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power bill was the highest percentage change in the state.

With the current rate in effect for Cheyenne Light, a homeowner who paid $142 in January should prepare to pay $255 for the same amount of heat.

But don't blame the utility company, Petrie said.

The increases are due to expected costs of natural gas from wholesalers and not a profit increase for any utility in the state, according to the PSC, which regulates the prices.

The price of natural gas as a commodity is usually passed through to consumers on a dollar-for-dollar basis, Petrie said.

The January bills may be lower than the estimates.

'These (estimates) can change overnight," Petrie said. 'And you don't always have any real warning about it."

But the bills will still be quite a bit higher than last year.

The statewide average is expected to go from $178.30 in January 2008 to $234.90 in January 2009.

Most homes in Wyoming are heated by natural gas. Those heated with propane or electricity can expect to see increases as well, Petrie said, though they likely will not be as dramatic.

Where you live and which utility serves that area has bearing on your rate.

The estimates show that the 210 customers of Frannie-Deaver Utilities in a small area northwest of Lovell should see almost a 9 percent drop in their bills, from $165.42 to $150.56.

Petrie said that is because the gas in that service area is not transferable into the national system. It can only be used locally, and that is the only service area where bills are likely to decrease.

The 30,194 customers in Cheyenne Light's service area will not be so fortunate, state officials have been warning.

'There is some amount of luck involved - good luck or bad luck," Petrie said.

The difference in the Cheyenne area January bills also is affected by a system that tries to balance accounts. If the utility ends up paying less for natural gas than expected, it will lower the bill in later months to make up for the overcharge.

Last January's bills were lowered because of that practice.

The PSC and utilities are holding a conference from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday at the Best Western Ramkota Inn in Casper.

The PSC, utilities, governor's office and Department of Family Services plan a series of meetings around the state to try to get the word out about weatherization and state assistance available.

The meeting in Cheyenne is Aug. 27.

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