Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Questar seeks OK to refund ‘typical’ Utah customer $34.50
Energy » Utahns see natural gas prices fall for past four years

< Previous Page

Faced with the continuing decline in the price of the natural gas it buys, Questar Gas is asking state utility regulators to approve an immediate $42 million one-time refund for its Utah customers.

If the Public Service Commission approves the request, the rebate will reduce the typical ratepayer’s May bill by around $34.50.

At a glance

Recent Questar natural gas rate adjustments

Request Effective date Percentage change

+ $195 million July 1, 2008 +22.8%

- $68.8 million Nov. 1, 2008 -5.9%

- $161 million March 1, 2009 -16.5%

- $32.7 million Oct. 1, 2009 -4.0%

+ $48.3 million Aug. 1, 2010 + 5.5%

- $6.6 million Jan. 1, 2011 -0.73%

- $13.3 million June 1, 2011 -1.5%

- $26.1 million Oct. 1, 2011 -2.7%

- $770,000 Feb. 1, 2012 -0.10%

- $13 million Feb. 1, 2012 -1.5%

Source: Utah Public Service Commission

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"The cost of the natural gas that we buy for our customers has been falling," said spokesman Darren Shepherd. "And given the economy, we thought our customers would appreciate a one-time rebate to reflect those lower prices."

Since mid-2008, the price of natural gas produced in the Rocky Mountain region as declined from $9.90 per decatherm to just over $1.90. A decatherm is roughly the equivalent of 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

Natural gas distribution companies such as Questar make their money by charging customers to deliver gas to their homes and businesses. They don’t make a profit from natural gas itself, but rather supply the fuel to their customers for the same price they pay for it.

Typically, Questar asks state regulators twice a year for permission to adjust the amount it charges customers for the natural gas used.

Those adjustments are designed to keep the amount the company pays for natural gas and the amount its charges its customers in balance. And that means when natural gas prices are falling, Questar will adjust bills downward. When prices are going up, Questar will raise rates to reflect the rising cost and ensure it has enough money on hand to buy the natural gas consumers demand.

This time, though, rather than asking the PSC to adjust rates, Questar is seeking permission to take the unusual step of passing on the lower cost of natural gas in one lump sum. The last time it made such a request was in 2009, and prior to that, 1995.

Michele Beck is the state official who oversees the Committee of Consumer Services, which serves as the voice for residential and small-business owners in utility rate cases. She said Questar’s request isn’t too surprising, given the downward trend in natural gas prices.

Questar usually asks to adjust the amount it collects from its customers at the beginning and end of each heating season, she said. "Their request may be a little early this year, but it is certainly within that general time frame."

story continues below
story continues below

She pointed out, though, that the $34.50 rebate amount is for the "typical" Questar customer. She added that a benefit to Questar asking for the refund of $42 million in one lump sum is that rebates will be calculated based on the amount of natural gas each customer used over the past heating season. So, those who used more gas will get back more than those who used less. "It is a fair way to do it."

Utahns have been enjoying the benefits of declining natural gas prices for the past four years.

Since mid-2008, Questar has requested approval to adjust its rates 10 times. And eight of those pass-through cases involved the company seeking regulatory permission to lower the amount it charges its customers for gas.

Those pass-through rate cases helped lower the average Utah’s annual natural gas bill by $115 since 2008. The requested one-time rebate is the equivalent of an annual decrease in natural gas charges of about 5 percent, according to Questar.


Twitter: @OberbeckBiz

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.