Rate hikes are affecting about 800,000 customers in North Carolina, butthe poor are hardest hit. Nettie Grove couldn't believe it when hernatural gas bill almost tripled this month. The retired history teachersays she can't afford the higher rate.
Gas companies like the Public Service Company do have monopolies intheir regions, but they are regulated, so all rate increases mustbe approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. State NaturalGas Director Eugene Curtis says the state hasapproved several rate hikes in the past two months due to the increasingmarket price of natural gas.
Gas prices for this area are set in Texas and Louisiana and areaffected by cold weather nationwide. That means, even if it's warm in theTriangle, prices can still go up.
Higher gas prices are particularly hard on social service programs which help low-income families with theirheating bills. Wake County Energy Assistance Director Carston Hunter sayshe worries at times like this.
Fortunately for Grove, assistance will enable her to get through thewinter without paying more. That, she says, makes a big difference tosomeone living on a fixed income.
If you know someone who needs public assistance with a heating bill,have them call for help. In Wake County, the number is 919-212-7000, inDurham County, call 919-560-8300, in Cumberland County, call 910-677-2436,and in Orange County, the number is 919-732-8181.
The NC Utilities Commission expects rates to come down within thenext four-to-eight weeks.
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