Local News

Lawmakers To Study Fuel Cost Solutions As Supplier Plans Price Cut

Posted December 30, 2005 7:58 a.m. EST

— The weekly fill-up and the monthly gas bill are all adding up to big bucks. And it's finally getting attention. On Friday, leading lawmakers announced plans for a new committee to look into the rising prices, while the fuel supplier to one-fourth of North Carolina homes announced plans to cut costs.

PSNC Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas, which sell fuel to heat these homes, on Thursday asked for permission to cut natural gas rates by 12 percent, because wholesale prices have taken an unexpected dive. But bills are up 55 percent from a year ago.

So, what impact could lawmakers really have? The legislative committee can only make recommendations. The governor's office said he'd work with legislators to find ways to help those most affected by energy prices in a fiscally responsible manner.

Gas prices in the Triangle are on their way up, just ahead of a three-cent spike in the state's fuel tax that kicks in Sunday.

"If it warrants a special session, then so be it," said state Rep. Bernard Allen.

Lawmakers have not been able to get Gov. Mike Easley to agree to a special session, but they're going to meet on their own in a continuing push to turn up the heat on the governor to relieve the squeeze on consumers.

"I consume those items: gas and heating oil," said Allen.

Allen is a lawmaker feeling the pinch. He's now on the House and Senate select committee set to meet next week to deal with rising energy costs.  

"We had a special session to give a break to the corporate community," he said. "I think it was Dell, if my memory serves me correctly. So, why not give one to John Q. Public on a fixed income who really needs a break?"

It appears, though, consumers who can't catch a break at the pump could get one at home. The N.C. Utilities Commission on Tuesday will consider the PSNC proposals.

"We're happy to pass on this decrease to our customers," said PNSC representative Angie Townsend.

Townsend said the average homeowner could see a drop in his or her January utility bill if the request is approved.

"That would be a $174 versus a $153 bill," said Townsend. "That's a savings of about $21, and every little bit helps this time of year."

That's a holiday gift from a state utility on which lawmakers could build to relieve the energy squeeze on consumers.

Previous Stories:

  • December 30, 2005:

    Heating Bills Could Drop For A Quarter Of N.C. Homes

  • December 29, 2005:

    High Home Heating Bills Leave Some Crying For Relief