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Heating bills decline for Washington natural gas customers

Consider it an early Christmas present from the energy gods: Thanks to an abundance of new natural gas supplies and falling prices for Washington utilities, your natural gas home heating bill will likely fall this winter.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission on Thursday approved a natural gas price decrease that will affect about a million customers in the Evergreen State. The rate reduction affects customers of Puget Sound Energy, Avista Utilities, and Northwest Natural Gas Co.

For Puget Sound Energy’s 813,240 natural gas customers in Pierce, King, Thurston, Lewis, Snohomish and Kittitas counties, their average bills will drop by 15.4 percent, beginning Nov. 1. For an average customer using 68 therms of gas monthly, that will mean a savings of $12.54, said the commission.

Avista customers in Eastern Washington and Northwest Natural Gas customers in Southwest Washington will see similar price drops.

The price reductions are the result of wholesale price decreases in the natural gas prices the three utilities pay producers and distributors in Canada and in the Rocky Mountain region for their natural gas supplies.

The commission requires retail natural gas suppliers to file Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment documents at least every 15 months to allow the commission to set retail gas prices based on the cost of the fuel the utilities buy in the wholesale market.

The cost of both natural gas and crude oil has fallen substantially this year as new supplies have flooded the market.

Puget Sound consumers aren’t benefiting from only just natural gas price declines. The cost of filling their car’s tank has drooped steeply this fall with some stations in the South Sound flirting with a $2 per gallon price this week, according to TacomaGasPrices.com.

Unleaded regular was available for $2.01 a gallon Thursday at both Costco near the Tacoma Mall and at an Arco station at South 56th and Orchard streets in Tacoma.

The least expensive gas in Thurston County Thursday was $2.07 a gallon at an Arco station at 10222 Martin Way E. In Federal Way, a Safeway store at 1207 S. 320th Street was the low price leader at $2.09 a gallon.

South Sound gas prices on average have fallen 15 cents a gallon in the past month. Energy experts expect those prices to continue declining. In a typical year, retail gas prices continue falling through mid-December.

This year’s average gasoline prices in the South Sound are already some 70 cents a gallon less than they were at this time last year.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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