Atmos plans rate reduction

If approved, drop would be second this year

Atmos Energy Corp. filed a request Monday with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to reduce the cost of natural gas to residential and commercial customers in Southwest Colorado.

If the request is approved, all customers will pay 3 percent less for natural gas beginning Nov. 1.

The rate for residential customers will drop from 48 to 47 cents per 100 cubic feet of gas. Commercial customers will pay 43 cents per ccf instead of 44 cents.

The decrease is the result of lower wholesale costs, Atmos officials said in a statement.

The utility must petition the PUC to increase or decrease rates, company spokesman Brian Martens said. But it’s a formality, he said.

“I’m not aware if the PUC has ever denied a request,” Martens said. “They’re only pass-through costs.”

Atmos earns income from its services – building and maintaining distribution systems, delivering gas and billing. It doesn’t charge for the gas per se, but the price Atmos pays for natural gas determines its charges to customers.

The Public Utilities Commission regulates the utility’s rate of return.

The average monthly natural-gas bill for householders currently is $39.96. If the rate change is approved, the average monthly bill for the next year will drop to $39.21.

The average monthly bill for commercial customers would fall from $167.01 to $163.02.

An 18 percent rate reduction in April cut residential gas from 58 to 48 cents per ccf. The price of commercial gas dropped 19 percent, from 55 to 48 cents per ccf.

Martens said customers can even out their bills through the year to compensate for higher payments in the winter by calling (888) 286-6700 seven days a week or by visiting www.atmosenergy.com.

“It only takes a few minutes,” Martens said.

Energy Outreach Colorado and the federally funded Low Income Energy Assistance Program help low-income families pay their bills. Information is available at (866) 432-8435.

A good way to reduce energy costs is to conserve, Martens said. Atmos recommends adding insulation to buildings, applying caulking around windows and doors and lowering the water-heater thermostat.

Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, is one of the country’s largest natural gas-only distributors. It has about 3 million customers from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Rocky Mountains.

daler@durangoherald.com

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