AmerenUE: Area natural gas rates to drop this month

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Natural gas customers in Cape Girardeau and nearby areas will get a break on their bills this month, the Public Service Commission announced Tuesday.

As a result of falling prices in the gas market, new rates take effect today that are 12.5 percent lower for about 20,000 AmerenUE customers in Cape Girardeau, Scott and Stoddard counties.

Gas rates will also fall about 9 percent for the approximately 2,000 AmerenUE gas customers in Butler and Bollinger counties and part of Stoddard County.

With the cost of gas making up about 70 percent of the total bill, that means customers will see bills ranging from 6.8 percent to 9.5 percent lower in March, the PSC said in a news release.

The actual savings will depend on weather, the PSC cautioned.

AmerenUE filed a request for the rate reduction last week, spokesman Mike Cleary said.

"It is not much, but there is still some winter left," Cleary said. "We felt it was timely to get the rates down."

The rates customers will pay on their bills will be $1.11 per 100 cubic feet of gas in Cape Girardeau and 79 cents per 100 cubic feet in Marble Hill and other areas of Bollinger County.

During the winter of 2004-05, customers in the Cape Girardeau area paid 89 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas.

Natural gas rates differ in the two areas because they are supplied by separate pipelines. Other factors, such as past rates, also play a role in determining current rates.

Based on normal usage, customers in Cape Girardeau and surrounding areas will pay approximately $16.62 less for gas than they would have in March, AmerenUE said in a news release. For the customers in Bollinger, Butler and Stoddard counties, the savings will be approximately $9.07 in March.

Natural gas prices spiked following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The disruption of supplies caused rates to increase by as much as 40 percent in November. In other parts of the country, natural gas rates rose as much as 61 percent.

In late January, the Missouri Legislature approved $6.1 million in state funding for the Utilicare program, which augments federally funded utility help. The programs locally are administered through the East Missouri Action Agency.

Gas prices are unregulated and can rise or fall based on demand. Utility companies don't make a profit on the cost of gas, the PSC said.

The PSC regulates the prices of all for-profit utilities in Missouri. The PSC conducts an annual review to ensure that gas companies are making prudent choices to obtain their gas supplies, the PSC said.

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