Utah Ratepayers Association

Education and Lobbying for Ratepayers of Utility-type Services with Limited or No Alternatives

Rural Gas


Salt Lake Tribune Editorial - 31 January 2007


Town and country: City customers should not subsidize rural gas rates

Editorial - Salt Lake Tribune - Wednesday, 31 January 2007


There are advantages to living in rural communities - clean air, open spaces, lower taxes, stars as far as the eye can see. And there are disadvantages. Paying more for natural gas happens to be one of them.

Since the mid-1990s, residents in about three dozen Utah towns have paid more at the meter to reimburse Questar Gas for extending service to their area. Now, with the support of the gas company, they want to spread the cost, about $1.7 million per year, around.

Questar has asked the Public Service Commission to raise the rates for city slickers to make life easier for their country cousins. About 800,000 customers, most living along the Wasatch Front, would be asked to absorb a rate increase of $2.28 per year to accomplish that.

We sympathize with the commercial customers and residential users in rural areas. Rural economic development officials claim the higher rates prevent them from attracting new businesses and industry. And residential customers in the countryside pay $16 to $30 extra each month.

Ouch! That's gotta hurt. But should everybody share their pain? It sounds like a personal problem to us.

While spreading the costs of rural service to ratepayers statewide would reduce rates in outlying areas, and so make natural gas more attractive for country customers, the utility claims it has nothing to gain. "We'd be happy to go on collecting those revenues (from the rural communities) as we have for years," Questar spokesman Chad Jones said.

If that's the case, we urge Questar to withdraw its request. And we urge the Public Service Commission to deny the request. And we urge the public to protest.

These rural customers agreed to pay the higher rate. They wanted to dance, and now they have to pay the fiddler. Besides, if they want to reduce their heating bills, there are plenty of ways to save.

Insulate your home. Have your furnace serviced by a professional to make sure it is operating efficiently. Lower the thermostat a couple of degrees and wear a sweater. Or move to the city. But say "so long" to that fresh air.

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Last Modified: 3 June 2007