West Virginia PSC advises assistance for paying rising utility bills

·3 min read

Aug. 6—The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is offering advice for residents having trouble with paying utility bills that continue to grow

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported international natural gas and liquefied natural gas prices hit record highs in the last quarter of 2021 and first half of 2022, PSC officials said. Natural gas utility companies in West Virginia are currently filing their annual 30C cases with the PSC to adjust the purchased gas portion of their rates.

Mountaineer Gas Company applied on July 28 with the state PSC for increased rates impacting about 220,000 customers in the counties it serves. Locally, these counties include Mercer, McDowell, Monroe, Summers and Wyoming.

If the state PSC approves the increase, the average monthly bill for natural gas would increase by $25.08, an increase of 34.7 percent, according to the legal notice published Tuesday in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. The proposed increased rates would become effective on Nov. 1 unless otherwise ordered by the Public Service Commission.

Cardinal Natural Gas Company, which serves about 3,400 customers in Bluefield, Mercer County, has also applied with the state Public Service Commission to increase rates. These new rates, which would increase residential monthly bills by $27.39, would go into effect Nov. 1.

Some of those requests are as much as 173 percent above the rates the Commission approved last year. The commission does not regulate the price of natural gas; that price is determined by competitive markets, PSC officials said. The EIA also reports that the large increase in natural gas fuel costs over the past year is driving up wholesale electricity prices throughout the United States.

Customers facing difficulties paying their utility bills should first contact WV211 by dialing 211 or going to wv211.org on the internet to see what financial assistance may be available in their area, including churches and local charities.

Customers should also contact their local West Virginia DHHR office to apply for assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a federally funded program that helps low-income citizens pay for home heating and cooling, weatherizing your home and minor energy-related home repairs. DHHR also administers the 20 percent Discount Program, available from November through March to qualifying low-income customers.

Dollar Energy's West Virginia Utility Assistance Program may be able to provide a one-time grant to help pay electric, gas or water bills. If LIHEAP is available, you must apply for that program before applying for the Dollar Energy program. A link to Dollar Energy may be found on the PSC website: www.psc.state.wv.us.

The West Virginia Housing Development Fund administers assistance programs for renters and homeowners who are struggling because of the pandemic or COVID-19. The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program and the West Virginia Homeowner Rescue Program can help with utility bill payments, rent and mortgage assistance. Detailed information, including eligibility requirements, are on the West Virginia Housing Development Fund website at www.wvhdf.com.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com