Local News

Gas Price Hikes Hurt Charities

Posted February 10, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— With the threat of wintry weather, most people worry about their heating bills, but with recent hikes in the price of natural gas, some worry if they'll have heat at all.

Rate hikes are affecting about 800,000 customers in North Carolina, but the poor are hardest hit. Nettie Grove couldn't believe it when her natural gas bill almost tripled this month. The retired history teacher says she can't afford the higher rate.

Gas companies like the Public Service Company do have monopolies in their regions, but they are regulated, so all rate increases must be approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. State Natural Gas Director Eugene Curtis says the state has approved several rate hikes in the past two months due to the increasing market price of natural gas.

Gas prices for this area are set in Texas and Louisiana and are affected by cold weather nationwide. That means, even if it's warm in the Triangle, prices can still go up.

Higher gas prices are particularly hard on social service programs which help low-income families with their heating bills. Wake County Energy Assistance Director Carston Hunter says he worries at times like this.

Fortunately for Grove, assistance will enable her to get through the winter without paying more. That, she says, makes a big difference to someone 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, in Durham 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 the next four-to-eight weeks.