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Natural gas bills may shrink in Idaho and Washington

Avista customers should see their heating bills drop this winter as a result of lower natural gas prices.

The Spokane-based utility is proposing a decrease of about 15 percent in the monthly charge for Washington and Idaho residential gas customers, effective Nov. 1.

If state regulators approve the change, a typical Washington household would save about $10 on its monthly bills and a typical Idaho household would save about $8 per month. The lower prices would last for 12 months.

The wholesale gas prices and the cost of delivering the commodity to Avista’s facilities make up about 50 percent of a customer’s bill, said Casey Fielder, an Avista spokeswoman. Each year, the company asks for price adjustments, based on changes in wholesale costs and delivery charges.

This year, wholesale gas costs have dropped as a result of both weather and supplies.

“We had a warmer than normal winter, particularly in the West,” Fielder said. Customer demand for natural gas dropped, while North American gas production remained strong. Many companies, including Avista, have an abundance of natural gas in storage, Fielder said.

The request for the rate decrease “allows us to pass the lower costs on to our customers,” she said.

If state utility commissions approve the request, a typical household’s gas bill would drop to $57.99 per month in Washington and $51.28 per month in Idaho.

Washington customers could also see a 3.3 percent increase in electric rates, based on a lower expected rebate from the Bonneville Power Administration. The rebates provide a share of the benefits from federal dams on the Columbia River system to residential and small-business customers of Avista and other investor-owned utilities.

The gas and electric adjustments would not affect Avista’s request for higher base rates in Washington and Idaho, which are currently pending before the state utility comissioners, Fielder said.

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