CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY) filed today to further reduce its natural gas billing rates in Tennessee as a result of falling wholesale natural gas costs that are being driven by the nation's abundant supply of natural gas, increased on-shore production from shale gas, and a warmer than normal start to the 2011-2012 winter heating season.
Today's filing marks the seventh time since September 2008 that Piedmont has filed to reduce its customer billing rates in Tennessee as a result of falling wholesale natural gas costs. If approved by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA), Piedmont's filing would reduce the company's gas cost benchmark by approximately 70 percent since 2008 and would result in lower customer billing rates effective February 1, 2012. Wholesale natural gas costs account for about half of a customer's total natural gas bill.
In other news, the Company has entered into a settlement of its pending Tennessee general rate case with the Attorney General's Consumer Advocate office and has filed the settlement with the TRA for its consideration and approval. Piedmont filed the general rate case, its first since 2003, with the TRA in September. The settlement, if approved by the TRA, would lower the Company's original request for $16.7 million in additional revenues to $11.9 million, a reduction of approximately 29 percent.
The net effect of Piedmont's two filings would be to lower the average residential customer's natural gas bill from approximately $739 per year to about $685 per year, or a decrease of just over 7 percent. Collectively, Piedmont's residential customers in Tennessee would save $8.1 million compared to their current annual costs and just over $50 million compared to their annual costs in 2008.Commenting on the Company's filings, Thomas E. Skains, Piedmont's Chairman, President, and CEO said, "The continuing decline in wholesale natural gas costs is a dramatic win for natural gas customers here and across the nation. This puts money back into the pockets of consumers and back into the economy at a critical time in our economic recovery. We negotiated our rate case settlement with the Consumer Advocate's office to an amount that we believe is fair for both our customers and the Company and, while a significant reduction from our original request, will still allow us to invest in our natural gas distribution system in the metro Nashville area to serve our existing and future customers in a safe and reliable manner." Forward-Looking StatementThis press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements are based on management's current expectations and information currently available and are believed to be reasonable and are made in good faith. However, the forward-looking statements are subject to future events, risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the statements. Factors that may make the actual results differ from anticipated results include, but are not limited to, weather conditions, rate of customer growth, the cost and availability of natural gas, competition from other energy providers, new legislation and regulations and application of existing laws and regulations, economic and capital market conditions, the cost and availability of labor and materials and other uncertainties, all of which are difficult to predict and some of which are beyond our control. For these reasons, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements when making investment decisions. The words "expect," "believe," "project," "anticipate," "intend," "should," "could," "assume," "estimate," "forecast," "future," "indicate," "outlook," "plan," "predict," "seek," "target," "would," and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are based on information available to us as of the date they are made and we do not undertake any obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statement, either as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. More information about the risks and uncertainties relating to these forward-looking statements may be found in Piedmont's latest Forms 10-K and 10-Q, which are available on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov/. About Piedmont Natural GasPiedmont Natural Gas is an energy services company primarily engaged in the distribution of natural gas to more than one million residential, commercial and industrial utility customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, including 51,800 customers served by municipalities who are wholesale customers. Our subsidiaries are invested in joint venture, energy-related businesses, including unregulated retail natural gas marketing, interstate natural gas storage and intrastate natural gas transportation. More information about Piedmont Natural Gas is available on the Internet at http://www.piedmontng.com/.