October 5, 2005

Hurricanes to bring $690 winter gas bills to Texas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After hitting prices at the gas pump,
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita's next punch on consumers' wallet
will likely be from home heating gas bills this winter.

Due to soaring natural gas prices, the average customer in
North Central Texas can expect to pay $690 for their gas bill
from October through March, nearly double last season's average
cost of $367, Atmos Energy Corp. said on Wednesday.

The two hurricanes disrupted about 15 percent of U.S.
natural gas production, which was already constrained because
of growing demands from power plants and other users, the
Dallas-based natural gas distributor said.

"Volatility of gas prices in recent months has been like a
giant roller coaster," Dick Erskine, president of Atmos
Energy's Mid-Tex division said. "We have never seen gas prices
change so fast, making it harder to predict our winter bills."

Overall, natural gas utility bills for the average North
Central Texas residential customer could be about 60 to 90
percent higher than gas bills last winter, Atmos said.