Amid DPU Shakeup, State Agency Orders Reductions in Natural Gas Prices on March Bills

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Cecile M. Fraser.

Natural gas bills for most residents will drop 4 or 5% next month after the Department of Public Utilities—amid an agency shakeup—approved a mid-season reduction in gas supply charges as natural gas prices drop.

Gas companies are required to buy natural gas at the market rate and pass costs on to their customers without making a profit. Rates are typically adjusted Nov. 1 and May 1, but the Healey administration said Thursday that DPU can require gas companies to revise their gas supply rates “whenever the companies will materially over- or under-collect costs from customers.”

Due to dropping market prices for natural gas, Massachusetts gas companies are decreasing supply rates for gas consumed during February, March and April.

“Families and businesses need relief, and our administration is heartened to see a downward trend in natural gas prices,” Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said. Natural gas customers across Massachusetts saw their costs increase about 20% when the winter rates went into effect in November.

The announcement also revealed the commission is now being chaired, on an acting basis, by member Cecile M. Fraser. The former chair Matthew H. Nelson, is no longer listed as a member. The three-person commission is appointed by the secretary of energy and environmental affairs with approval of the governor.

“These reductions in winter gas supply rates will offer some much-needed relief to gas ratepayers this winter,” Fraser said, adding, “We continue to direct the utilities to work with the families and businesses across the Commonwealth through energy efficiency and fuel assistance programs to help alleviate the burdens of energy costs.”

Area legislators, led by Sen. Pavel Payano, recently signed on to a letter to now-former Chair Nelson, urging a reduction in electricity rates. As WHAV noted in that story, the letter omitted any reference to the utility regulator’s “revolving door” between industry and government that critics say favors industry interests.

Colin A. Young, State House News Service.

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