Commission hears request for higher natural gas prices

Nevada's Public Utilities Commission opened hearings in Las Vegas on Tuesday, which are expected to result in a significant increase in natural gas prices.

Southwest Gas in July asked for a 3 percent increase in Southern Nevada and almost no increase in the Carson City area. But the utility commission's experts, citing recent spikes in petroleum prices and the potential impact of Hurricane Katrina, have recommended a 17.22 percent increase in the south and 12.48 percent in western Nevada.

Southwest officials, saying they expect to have to pay nearly $64 million more for the natural gas they deliver to northern and western Nevada, agreed and amended their rate application.

Even the Bureau of Consumer Protection is recommending a 14.41 percent increase in the south and 12.05 percent in the north.

According to PUC officials, the utility is entitled to pass along increases in the cost it must pay for gas to consumers. State analysts have recommended the increases be made in two steps - Nov. 1 and Jan. 1.

But they held out some hope gas prices might go down a bit this fall, making possible a smaller jump in prices for customers.

According to the utility commission, those increases would raise the typical monthly residential gas bill about $10 to just under $107.

Southwest's proposed increases are small compared to the 35 percent recommended for Sierra Pacific Power Co. That company asked for 18.9 percent more when it filed in July but both PUC experts and Sierra Pacific are now saying a 35.8 percent increase may be necessary. That would add more than $20 to the typical residential bill for Sierra Pacific customers, raising it to about $86 a month.

Hearings into Sierra Pacific's rate case are scheduled for Monday.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.

Natural Gas Hikes

• The Nevada Public Utilities Commission recommends an increase in natural gas prices of 17.22 percent increase in the south and 12.48 percent in north and western Nevada.

This would raise an average residential bill about $10 to just under $107.

• Sierra Pacific is seeking an increase in its natural gas prices of 35.8 percent. That would add more than $20 to the typical residential bill to about $86 a month.


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