Questar Gas Co. wants to lower the amount its customers will pay for natural gas this winter.
The utility, which provides most Utahns with the natural gas to heat their homes during the coldest months of the year, is asking the state's top utility regulators for permission to lower the annual bills of its customers by a total of $14 million, or 1.4 percent.
If approved, average Questar Gas customers will see their monthly bills decline by about 83 cents, or approximately $10 a year.
"Abundant natural gas supplies continue to hold down the price of natural gas," Craig Wagstaff, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Questar Gas, said in a statement announcing the filing of the company's request to lower its rates.
Wagstaff added Questar is working hard to maintain a safe distribution system and encourage its customers to conserve energy through its ThermWise programs, all while keeping rates among the lowest in the country.
Questar typically asks the Utah Public Service Commission twice a year for permission to adjust the amount it charges its customers for natural gas. Such requests, known as pass-through-rate adjustments, routinely are granted because it is easy for Questar to demonstrate what it has paid for natural gas and what it has collected from its customers.
Natural gas distribution companies like Questar make their money by charging customers to deliver gas to their homes and businesses. They don't make a profit from the gas itself, but rather supply the fuel to their customers for the same price they pay for it.
What that means is that when natural gas costs are rising, Questar often will ask in a pass-through-rate adjustment to raise the amount it charges its customers for the fuel. Conversely, when natural gas costs are falling, it will ask to lower the amount it charges.
In mid-May, the cost of natural gas rebounded in price from a five-year low, a bounce that forced Questar to seek an increase in the amount it charged its customers by a total of $61 million. That increase was equal to about $50 a year for the typical residential customer.
Even with the current rate increase request factored in, Questar Gas customers still will be paying almost 9 percent less for their natural gas than they were in 2008, according to Darren Shepherd, a spokesman for the utility.
Wagstaff also noted that funds may be available to help income-eligible consumers who are elderly or disabled pay their natural gas bills.
Such customers who need help can dial 211 for information about utility-assistance programs such as the federally funded Home Energy Assistance Target program (HEAT) or the Residential Energy Assistance through Community Help program (REACH), which is funded by donations from Questar customers, employees and shareholders.