- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

Washington Gas yesterday asked Maryland officials for approval to raise heating bills starting in November.

Customers would see their gas bills rise by 5.6 percent, or $5.70 a month.

The company, which provides natural gas to 1 million customers in Maryland, Virginia and the District, said it needs to raise rates because delivery costs in the area are increasing.

“The existing rates no longer reflect our costs of providing utility service in Maryland,” said Washington Gas Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr.

The company has not increased Maryland rates since 2003.

Washington Gas is a regulated utility that provides natural gas delivery and retail sales to nearly 421,000 customers in Maryland. It does not generate the gas itself.

“We’ve added new investments to our infrastructure,” said Jan Davis, a spokeswoman for Washington Gas. “Along with rising labor costs, higher insurance costs and general inflation, the cost of our service has gone up.”

Washington Gas filed similar requests last year with the District and Virginia, citing similar reasons for the rate increases.

In February, Virginia customers began paying an additional $3.80 on their monthly bills and in October, D.C. customers will see their bills jump $8.47.

“The general outlook is that prices have gone up as a commodity product and that’s affecting everyone across the board,” said a spokesman for the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

According to the EIA, local distribution costs for natural gas in Maryland are 11 percent higher than the national average: $5.78 per thousand cubic feet versus $5.23, respectively.

The Maryland Public Service Commission must approve the rate increase.

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