Avista asks to drop natural gas rates

Southern Oregon natural gas provider Avista said today it is applying for a 10.7 percent decrease in its natural gas rates.

If the Oregon Public Utility Commission approves the Spokane-based company's annual purchased gas cost adjustment, rates for its 96,000 customers in Douglas, Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties will go down by Jan. 1.

Such rate adjustments are filed annually to balance the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with rates. Abundant supplies of natural gas and continued soft demand for the commodity have kept wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels over the past year.

The company does not mark up the cost of natural gas purchased to meet customer needs, so there is no impact on company earnings, officials said.

Included in the filing are the costs savings related to the utility's purchase of the Klamath Falls Lateral — a 15-mile, 6-inch transmission pipeline — currently owned and operated by Northwest Pipeline. The Klamath Falls Lateral interconnects with Gas Transmission Northwest to transport natural gas to customers in Klamath Falls. Avista said the purchase of the lateral is expected to save customers approximately $1 million annually beginning in January.

If all requests are approved, rate adjustments would take place in two phases, with the first adjustment becoming effective Nov. 1, and the second adjustment taking effect Jan. 1, 2013.

An Avista residential customer using an average 47 therms a month could expect their bill to decrease by $5.78, or 9.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $56.22 beginning in November. A residential customer using an average 47 therms a month would see an additional decrease of 50 cents beginning Jan. 1, for a total decrease of $6.28, or an overall decrease of 10.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $55.72.

— Greg Stiles

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