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Gas bills skyrocket

By Staff
HIGHER PRICES Area residents can expect to see their Mississippi Valley Gas bills tripled due to a rise in natural gas prices. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 10, 2001
Area residents who do a double take at their most recent Mississippi Valley Gas bills need not blame the meter reader for the high cost.
It will be the first of many to include a tripled price increase, and officials say no relief to the national problem is in sight.
Hardwick said the cost increase from $2.17 per thousand cubic feet of gas to $9 per thousand cubic feet will likely not go down any time soon and will probably never reach its former price.
The recent high bills have netted the company's Jackson office roughly 1,200 phone calls a day, he said.
Hardwick said customers receiving their December bills are getting their first "sticker shock."
Natural gas is sold and bought on an open market and is not regulated by government entities as are other utilities, Hardwick said. Mississippi Valley Gas sells gas to its customers for the same price they pay; their profit is made on delivery charges only, he said.
Hardwick said Mississippi Valley Gas will also suffer from the cost increase due to money lost from uncollectable accounts.
The company won't be quick to change their advertising slogan as the "cleanest burning, most efficient fuel going," he said.
Hardwick said the cost of electricity is likely to rise with the gas prices since many power generating plants use large amounts of natural gas.
Mississippi's electric customers won't be affected as strongly as in other parts of the nation, such as California, where electric plants use a tremendous amount of natural gas said Mississippi Power spokesman Kurt Brautigam.
The company's customers can expect to see an increase on their bills of 2 percent in January, but it is a cost directly related to higher usage.
Low-income and elderly customers who may have trouble paying their bills could be eligible for help through federal monies available through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Residents who would like to apply for assistance should contact either Mississippi Valley Gas at 693-6331 or the Multi-County Community Service Agency Inc. at 483-3843.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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