Staying toasty could be less pricey

Atmos seeks reduction in natural gas costs this winter

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— Operators of car washes and coin-operated laundries in Northwest Colorado likely rejoiced this week at news that Atmos Energy has filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to decrease the price of commercial and residential natural gas by 33 percent effective Nov. 1.

The move will translate to cheaper hot water for businesses like car washes and laundries.

Atmos Energy officials said they applied for the decrease because the wholesale price of natural gas has decreased significantly this fall. Atmos locked in half of its winter supply during summer, when gas prices were lower than they are today.

"Atmos Energy does not make a profit on the natural gas we deliver," Gary Schlessman said in a news release. Schlessman is president of the company's Colorado-Kansas Division. "Our customers are charged the same price for natural gas that we are charged."

The 33 percent reduction in cost translates to a drop from $1.24 per hundred cubic feet of gas to 83 cents per ccf for commercial customers.

Residential customers will see the price drop from $1.26 to 85 cents.

Typical residential customers would see the "commodity cost" portion of their January gas bills decline from $188.35 to $126.52, according to Atmos.

The natural gas industry makes its profit from the fees it charges for delivering the gas to its customers and from maintaining its utility distribution system. However, Schlessman said Atmos couldn't unilaterally raise that portion of its customers' bills because the Public Utilities Commission regulates the rates charged for delivering natural gas to customers.

Despite the fact that gas bills should be lower this winter - barring extreme weather, Atmos' Karen Wilkes suggests residential customers take part in the company's program to even out seasonal bills.

Consumers can sign up for "levelized budget billing" by visiting www.atmosenergy.com or calling (888) 442-1313.

- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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