Heating with Natural Gas Should Get Cheaper This Winter — Again

Good news for consumers and businesses, but conservationists concerned over increased consumption of fossil fuels

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The cost of heating your home with natural gas will fall again this winter, dropping to the lowest rate in 16 years for the state’s largest utility.

All four gas utilities yesterday said customers’ bills will fall again beginning this October if proposed tariffs are approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

The decline is due to historically low prices for natural gas, driven by new supplies found in the Marcellus Shale formations in Pennsylvania and neighboring states. While this may be a boon to consumers and businesses, environmentalists worry about increased use of a fossil fuel and a rapid expansion of pipelines in New Jersey.

For the typical residential customer, bills will drop by as much a 9.5 percent for New Jersey Natural Gas to 3 percent for those who use rely on South Jersey Gas. Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest gas utility with 1.9 million customers, will lower bills by 7.4 percent. Elizabethtown Gas customers will see costs drop for the sixth consecutive year, this time falling by $24.50 annually.

PSE&G said it will reduce its basic gas-supply rate this winter to 34 cents, down from 40 cents a year ago. In perspective, the 2009 gas-supply rate for the utility was $1.19 per therm. “That is a huge savings,’’ said Jorge Cardenas, a PSE&G vice president.

Overall, residential PSE&G customers will save about $64 per year.

New Jersey Natural Gas customers will benefit from a bill credit this winter that will result in a lower typical bill of 9.5 percent, or $93 a year. It reflects a drop in the utility’s basic gas rate of 5.5 percent, and an 8.2 percent increase in its conservation program due to warmer temperatures last winter.

The rates at South Jersey Gas are the lowest for customers in 15 years, according to Jeffrey DuBois, the president of the utility. Overall bills will drop by about $4.39 per month, again a result of a combination of factors — a drop in its basic gas rate and a boost in its conservation program, as well a dip in its energy efficiency rate.