Lower Prices Mean Good News for Natural-Gas Customers in NJ This Winter

In filings with state agency, New Jersey's four gas utilities demonstrate that cheaper natural gas translates into savings for residential and business consumers

Credit: NJTV
Laurence Downes, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas
Most New Jersey consumers will once again pay lower heating bills this winter as natural-gas prices continue to drop.

Annual filings by the state’s four gas utilities indicate that customers will see their bills drop or will receive credits on the gas they use to heat their homes, usually effective in October.

The decrease in gas bills continues a trend of lower costs for consumers and businesses, which is largely attributed to cheaper natural gas found in the Marcellus Shale formations in neighboring Pennsylvania and other states.

Customers have welcomed the cheaper bills for gas in a state with some of the highest energy costs in the nation. But environmentalists say the method of extracting the gas from the formations — a process known as fracking — pumps huge amounts of water and a smaller amount of chemicals into the shale and poses a risk to water quality.

The price reductions can amount to as much as 14.3 percent in savings in the bill for a typical residential customer of New Jersey Natural Gas.

“Today’s filing represent good news for our customers,’’ said Laurence Downes, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas. Its rates, like those of the other utilities, have been filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which generally approves a company’s applications with few, if any, modifications.

The state’s gas utilities do not make any profit on the gas they purchase for customers, instead earning money on the fuel delivered to homes and businesses.

[related]Other utilities also said costs to customers would fall this winter.

Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest utility, projected its gas rates would decline 5.7 percent this winter, the lowest rate in 15 years. If so, it would lower the annual rate for a typical residential customer by $52 a year.

Since 2009, the utility has decreased its monthly gas bills by 47 percent.

“The price of natural gas continues to be low, and we are pleased to once again pass these savings on to our residential customers for the next winter season,’’ said Jorge Cardenas, vice president of asset management and centralized services for PSE&G.

South Jersey Gas customers also will benefit from the lower gas prices. The utility said bills could drop by 12.2 percent, or an average $16.22 on a monthly bill.

Finally, Elizabethtown Gas filed a petition to reduce gas bills for its customers by $8.42 cents a month. The proposed rate reduction comes in addition to refunds of $20 million to its customers earlier this year due to lower gas prices.