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Samantha Hayes ReportingBy now you've heard it over and over, it’s going to cost more to heat your home this winter. Analysts are blaming Hurricanes Rita and Katrina for the rate hike, but many other factors go into pricing natural gas.
Gas companies, we'll use Questar as an example here, about every six months estimate what it’s going to cost them to provide you with fuel. So what's on your bill this month was a rate set many months ago.
Before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Questar Gas asked Utah's Public Service Commission for a 13 percent increase, an average of 11 dollars more a month for the typical household. That estimation was based on demand and market prices at that time.
Connie White, Department of Commerce: “About every six months they file what's called a pass through case. Questar gas basically says to the public service commission and the regulators, ‘this is what we think we are going to need to spend to buy the gas to heat homes for the next six months.’"
Now here's the bad news. White says after the hurricanes Questar withdrew that last rate request and the commission is anticipating a revised request that will most likely be higher than 13 percent.
Connie White: “Nobody foresaw the hurricanes, but that’s going to impact prices as well, primarily because refining capacity is down.”
There is some good news, though. Questar can buy 40 percent of the gas used in Utah at cost, instead of market. So while other states and regions of the country may see prices 40-50 percent higher than last winter, the Public Service Commission says that's not likely to happen in Utah.
Nevertheless, here's an example of what you may be able to expect. We looked at one home that is about 3,000 square feet. From October to February last winter it cost $393.87.
Questar says expect a 30-35 percent increase over last winter. So for that home it may cost $530, more than $138 dollars more than last year.