Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 9, 2012

Bluefield Gas: Rate decrease proposed

BLUEFIELD — Customers of Bluefield Gas could see their bills going down due to a new gas rate decrease.

Bluefield Gas has proposed an 11.59 percent gas rate decrease that would take effect on Nov. 1, 2012 if approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission. The average residential customer could see their bill decrease by $9.19 per month. The decrease would go into effect on Nov. 1, 2012.

Bluefield Gas Vice-President John Jessee, said the decrease is part of annual adjustments the company does to reflect the cost of gas.

“It is the annual adjustment of commodity gas costs,” Jessee said. “All gas companies in West Virginia do this adjustment. It is an annual filing and what it does is an adjustment of the anticipated gas costs. The decrease just reflects the decrease in commodity costs for natural gas.”

Jessee said the availability of natural gas has helped decrease costs.

“I think the last couple of years there has been a decrease in the cost of gas,” Jessee said. “The decrease reflects the pricing, which is based on the national industry. Some of it is due to increased supply in the marketplace by natural gas. We read about natural gas all the time with the Marcellus shale. It is just a factor of our supply cost being lower.”

Blaine Braithwaite, executive director of the South Bluefield Neighborhood Association, said any rate decrease is welcome news for Bluefield Gas customers.

“What they are proposing constitutes 80 percent of what customers are billed, so it is a very welcome reduction,” Braithwaite said. “This more accurately reflects what they are paying for natural gas on the open market. We are encouraged that the bulk of the payments is going down to more accurately reflect market costs, but at the same we are still very concerned their operations cost and their profits continue to go up.”

However, Braithwaite said there is another rate increase looming on the horizon for Bluefield Gas customers as well.

“The flip side of the coin is the 20 percent of the bill that covers their operation costs currently has a case asking for an increase,” he said. “Until we can get decreases on both sides of the coin we are still concerned given the fact that rates have gone up and up and up with operations and maintenance costs going up as they have every year for 11 years. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the company continuing to ask for those kinds of increases when we don’t see those kinds of reinvestments back into the community.”

Bluefield Gas presently furnishes natural gas services for approximately 3,600 customers in the Bluefield area. p

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