FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 11, 2000
CONTACT: Susan Henry, Consumer Liaison
HARRISBURG - Natural gas prices are expected to increase substantially
this winter across Pennsylvania, but there are steps that consumers
can take to keep from being overwhelmed by high home heating
bills, according to Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman
John Quain and Consumer Advocate Sonny Popowsky. "Higher
natural gas prices will be an economic hardship for many consumers,
but it can be a disaster for consumers on fixed or lower incomes,"
Popowsky said. "If consumers don't take steps to protect
themselves now, they may not be able to afford to stay warm,
especially if this winter is colder than the past few years."
Quain explained that high natural gas prices in Pennsylvania
are part of a national trend and parallel high petroleum prices
which drove automotive gasoline toward $2.00 a gallon this summer.
Natural gas prices nationally are predicted to be substantially
higher than last year. "Consumers should expect these higher
prices to last at least through the upcoming winter as we anticipate
tight supply and strong demand at the national level," he
stated. In response, Popowsky and Quain pointed to a number of
actions consumers can take to lower bills and make payments more
Quain urged consumers to take advantage of opportunities to
save money through efficiency measures and by improving the way
they use energy. He cited several no or low cost options:
- Weatherstrip windows and doors to prevent drafts,
- Keep hot water use to a minimum by washing only full
loads in washers and dishwashers,
- Apply for the federal Weatherization Assistance through
your county government,
- Call your gas company about their low income efficiency
- Set hot water heaters at the lowest comfortable setting.
Popowsky alerted consumers to a number of bill payment options
which can make high energy bills more affordable.
- Ask your gas company to place you on budget billing
to spread your high winter bills over the entire year,
- If you qualify, apply for federal LIHEAP energy assistance
through county assistance offices,
- If you cannot pay your entire bill, call your gas company
to set up an affordable payment schedule, and
- Apply to your utility for information about Customer
Assistance Programs and Low Income Usage Reduction Programs that
help low-income, payment-troubled customers pay their bills or
weatherize their homes.
Quain and Popowsky released the following toll-free phone
numbers which consumers can call for more information about energy
conservation tips or to request help in paying bills.
- Office of Consumer Advocate: 1-800-684-6560
for Information about budget billing and how to apply for
low-income cash and weatherization assistance programs, and for
a copy of a free energy savings guide.
- Public Utility Commission: 1-800-782-1110
for Information about affordable utility payment plans, special
utility low-income referral programs, and the federal LIHEAP