Washington Water Power Co. had some warming news Wednesday for Inland Northwest residents who in recent days got a taste of the winter to come - heating costs for those who use natural gas are going down.
The Spokane utility has asked utility regulators in Washington to approve an 11.1 percent rate cut for residential customers.
The average homeowner’s monthly bill would drop about $4.23.
In Idaho, the decrease would be 16.3 percent, or $6.55 per month.
The cutbacks, which are usually approved, would take effect December 1.
They reflect gas costs to the utility that have dropped substantially in the last year.
WWP can file Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments annually to track expenditures for natural gas over the previous year.
Spokesman Pat Lynch said gas costs represent about 45 percent of the amount billed to consumers. The rest is transportation and distribution costs, administration and profits.
Rates were last adjusted September l, 1994, when they climbed 9 percent in Washington, but slipped 4 percent in Idaho.
Despite the back-to-back rollbacks, Idaho customers will continue to pay slightly more than those in Washington for natural gas.
In Idaho, the per-therm charge will be 39.3 cents, vs. 37.6 cents in Washington. A therm equals 100,000 British Thermal Units.
Senior rate accountant Brian Hirschkorn said WWP does not make its allowed rate of return on investment in Washington, as it does in Idaho.
He noted that, as part of the proposed merger agreement with Sierra Pacific Resources, the cost of basic gas service would not be changed for five years.
Adjustments could be made only to reflect changes in the natural gas market, he said.