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High Heating Costs Put Pinch on Families

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RALEIGH — Heating bills are higher than predicted this winter -- some are up as much as 70 percent. With natural gas prices going through the roof, families are learning to cope.

Rene Lawrence could not believe it when she got a $200 gas bill for the month of December. She and her daughter rent a two-bedroom home that is barely 1,000 square feet.

"I try to keep it at 70 and 75 [degrees] so the bill doesn't get so high, and it's still high," she says.

Lawrence says her gas meter has run up a huge bill, in part because the heat has lots of places to escape from her home. She and her daughter are barely keeping up with the payments to the gas company.

"I pay them, but I'm struggling," she says. "I have to cut something else short to pay that bill."

Stories like Lawrence's are catching the attention of legislators. U.S. Rep. Bobby Ethridge is now calling for an investigation of why natural gas and propane prices have risen 50 percent or more this winter.

"Something is wrong. I find it hard to believe that the high demand alone can account for the dramatic increase that we have seen in home heating costs," he says.

Gas and propane suppliers say they are not the reason -- they are just passing on higher costs charged by wholesalers. Lawrence says that she will use her oven to heat her home if natural gas prices do not drop.

"There are going to be a lot of cold people around here," she says. "A lot of people with gas bills are going to get cut off because everybody cannot pay the bills if they're too high."


Len Besthoff, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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