Please note that these calls are designed for the financial community. If you are an individual investor and have questions or comments, please contact me directly at 1800-422-4012 extension 2388. Speaking on the call this morning are Gregg Kantor, President and Chief Executive Officer, and David Anderson, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Gregg and David have some opening remarks and then will be available to answer your questions. Also joining us today are other members of our Executive team to help answer your questions.
With that, let me turn you over to Gregg.
Thank you, Bob. Good morning everyone and welcome. Thank you for joining us for our third quarter earnings call. Before I turn it over to David to cover the financial details, let me start with an overview of the quarter and where we stand at this point in the year.Results for the third quarter were on track and very similar to this time last year with earnings to date per share of $1.62. While the Northwest continues to struggle with high unemployment, the pace of our customer additions edged slightly higher with a growth of just above 1%. Given the sluggish economic conditions in the region we were pleased to announce for the second year in a row I might add, a rate decrease to customers due to lower gas costs. Starting this month residential rates are about 2% lower in both Oregon and Washington. With these decreases in place, our customers will be paying about the same amount for their natural gas this winter as they did in 2004. And with electric rates on the rise in many Northwest communities, the increasing gap between natural gas and electricity prices strengthens our competitive position in both the conversion and new construction segments. Shifting to operations. Year-to-date O&M expenses are down by 6% compared to 2009, primarily due to lower payroll costs and lower bad debt expense. In these numbers you can see the hard work we have done over the last several years to streamline our operations. As importantly we continue to see proof that our cost management efforts have not negatively impacted customer service.