Bracing for a big natural gas bill this month? It may not be as bad as you think

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Turns out Western Washington residents may not have to chose between taking ice-cold showers and keeping the thermostat set at “meat locker” this winter.

Cascade Natural Gas, which provides service to approximately 50,000 Whatcom County residents, has pulled its Nov. 30 request to the Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase customers’ rates for natural gas by 17.2 percent, company spokesman Mark Hanson told The Bellingham Herald in an email Monday.

That means residential customers will not see the increase, which could have cost anyone using 54 therms an extra $9.23 per month beginning this month.

“We are still evaluating alternatives and would have to submit a new request for UTC approval,” Hanson told The Herald.

Cascade initially made the request in response to last October’s rupture of the Enbridge natural gas pipeline — the pipeline that provides much of the natural gas used by Western Washington.

Though the pipeline has been fixed and as of last month was operating at 85 percent pressure, according to the Canadian Press, Hanson last month told The Herald the cost Cascade pays for natural gas, which includes pipeline, reservation and storage costs, is up significantly following the rupture.

“Our cost of gas is a straight pass-through to our customers,” Hanson said. “There is no markup.”

Hanson said the primary concern over Cascade’s request for the 17 percent increase was over the timing of the filing occurring during the colder winter months when customers tend to use more gas for heating.

“As we looked at it, we were receiving feedback from the commissioners, … (and) it wasn’t looked favorably upon because of the timing,” Mark Chiles, Cascade vice president of regulatory affairs and customer service, told the Longview Daily News in a story published last week on Cascade’s decision to pull its request to the UTC.

Cascade lowered residential customer prices by 8.5 percent related to the Purchased Gas Adjustment on Nov. 1, Hanson said, in a filing that was in place before the Enbridge incident.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.