Tuesday, February 7, 2023

El Paso residents struggle to pay for gas

Many El Pasoans are sweating over the cost of their residential heating bills this month and some Texas Gas Service customers are facing payments of up to $400.

Some of the bills were so staggering that El Pasoans took to social media like the app Nextdoor, a platform where neighbors connect, to see if anyone else was experiencing the same shock.

“Horrible gas bill, biggest we’ve ever had” said a neighbor. Another replied: “Yes, mine was $200, 3 times the normal amount.” Comments poured in from about 130 residents in the West El Paso and Upper Valley neighborhoods, all in response to a post by Norma Dueñas.

Responding to an email from El Paso Matters, Texas Gas Service spokeswoman Safina Valji said the increase is due to two main factors: a 20 percent increase in the cost of natural gas in December and a cold month.

“The bill in January was for $380, I couldn’t believe it,” Dueñas said in an interview with El Paso Matters. “I thought they were charging me for two months at a time.”

Dueñas said he worries that if receipts keep rising, the extra income earned from a better-paying teaching job he recently introduced will be wiped out.

She said her monthly bill is typically in the $40 range during the summer months. It went up to $49 in November and $191 in December, before reaching near $400 in January for his three-bedroom house in West El Paso, he said.

This December was cooler than last year, with a December 2021 average temperature of 52.7 degrees (11.5 Celsius). This is 48.9 degrees (9.4 Celsius) in 2022, although still warmer than the historical average due to climate change, meaning people will need more energy to heat their homes.

The number of “heating degree days” used by meteorologists to estimate changing energy needs based on temperature was about a third more in December 2022 in El Paso than in the same month in 2021.

Walji said the market price of natural gas is something Texas Gas Service doesn’t determine.

In December 2021, the spot price for natural gas was $3.76 per million British thermal units (BTU), or the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree. According to government data, the price is set to rise to $5.53 per million BTU in December 2022, an increase of about 47 percent.

“We buy gas from suppliers and then deliver it to customers’ homes and businesses. The price we pay to suppliers for gas is the price customers pay (no surcharges), and we continually work to ensure the lowest gas price for our customers,” he said.

proposed rate hike

The December increase is not tied to a recent rate hike request by Texas Gas Service.

In June, Texas Gas Service proposed a rate increase and the consolidation of the three service areas into one larger service area called the West Texas Service Area. The new service area will connect El Paso with sections of the Texas Panhandle and North Texas. According to a Texas Gas filing, the rate change would generate an additional $13 million in revenue for the utility.

Although the consolidation will, in part, lower natural gas rates for the cities of Borger/Skellytown in the Panhandle and North Texas service areas, but will disproportionately increase rates for the El Paso area, according to a filing. 22 November.

The presentation made to the El Paso City Council shows that if the consolidation takes place, the utility would raise $18 million to make up for an existing revenue shortfall in the El Paso area. But under the plan, Texas Gas would only collect about $415,000 from the City of Borger/Skellytown service area and reduce revenue shortfall collections from the North Texas service area by about $5 million.

According to Texas Gas filings, the average gas bill for small residential customers in El Paso will increase by about $4.39 per month, or about 12.4 percent, and the average bill for large residential customers will increase by $7.01 per month, an increase of 13.7 percent. , The size of the customer is related to the amount of natural gas consumed per month.

Business customers can look at $10.46 per month, or an increase of 6 percent.

The city council voted unanimously on November 22 to reject a proposed rate increase during an acrimonious public hearing on the utility’s plan. The council authorized the city attorney’s office to fight the proposed increase, saying the rates are “unreasonably high and discriminate against customers within the City of El Paso and throughout the West Texas service area.” ,

The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry and gas utilities, will issue a final decision on the proposed increase on January 27.

Nation World News Desk
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