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Natural gas rates likely to rise

Greg Masse/Special to the Daily

Kinder Morgan natural gas customers can breathe a sigh of relief this fall.

In the wake of Xcel Energy’s filing Tuesday of an $88.8 million increase in prices for its Colorado customers, Kinder Morgan spokesman Les Meyer said his company’s gas prices might increase, but “nowhere like Xcel’s.”

Xcel’s gas-cost adjustment request filed Tuesday with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission comes less than six months after rates escalated by 40 percent for Xcel’s residential customers and by nearly 60 percent for business customers. Xcel filed for its prior gas cost adjustment on March 21.

“We will have a gas cost adjustment filing, but it will be nowhere like Xcel’s,” Meyer said Wednesday. Company officials “will know by mid-October and rates won’t increase until Nov. 1 or Dec. 1,” he said.

A gas-cost adjustment is a “pass-through” cost, so energy companies don’t make a profit from the increases.

Kinder Morgan supplies natural gas to much of the Western Slope, including customers from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and from Avon to New Castle.

Xcel Energy supplies natural gas to 70 percent of Coloradoans, including customers in Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Battlement Mesa to Grand Junction and Vail.

Xcel’s Tuesday request of an $88.8 million increase in prices for its Colorado customers would raise January’s residential heating bills by about 70 percent.

Typical small-business customers of Xcel would see an increase of 86 percent on their January bills compared to the same period this year – or about $242.87.

The company said the request reflects higher current and forecast costs for natural gas.

If approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, the Xcel price increase would go into effect Oct. 1.

Xcel Energy blamed the higher costs on new and proposed natural gas pipelines carrying supply out of the Rocky Mountain region, including the completion of the Kern River pipeline from Wyoming to California, which has allowed area producers to sell their gas for higher prices.

Storage for natural gas nationwide is lagging behind historic levels, and the recent blackouts in the United States and Hurricane Isabel have driven up prices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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