Northwest Natural Gas Company, dba NW Natural (NYSE: NWN), reported net income for the first quarter of 2010 of $43.6 million, compared to net income of $47.4 million in the same quarter of 2009, an 8 percent decrease. Earnings per share were $1.64 in the quarter, down 8 percent from $1.78 for the first quarter of 2009. Results in 2009 included significant gas commodity savings that didn’t repeat in the 2010 quarter, but 2010 first quarter results benefitted from a property tax refund in Oregon.

“Our first quarter results were in line with our expectations, but lower than last year’s record results, mainly because of the difference in gas cost savings,” said Gregg Kantor, NW Natural’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are also benefitting from the proactive efforts made last year to control our O&M costs, including reducing employee positions.”

First quarter financial and operating results

Net income and earnings per share

Consolidated results of operations produced net income of $43.6 million ($1.64 per share), compared to $47.4 million ($1.78 per share) in the first quarter of 2009. The company’s utility operations earned $40.9 million ($1.54 per share), compared to $45.3 million ($1.70 per share) in 2009. Gas storage contributed net income of $2.5 million (9 cents per share), compared to $2.0 million (8 cents per share) in the first quarter of last year. Other non-utility activities resulted in a gain in the quarter of $0.2 million (1 cent per share), compared to a negligible gain last year. General tax decreased more than $5 million due to the previously mentioned property tax refund in Oregon.

NW Natural ranks first in the West in J.D. Power study

According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study(SM), the company ranked highest in the West region with business customers. The study ranks business customer satisfaction as measured by six factors: billing and payment; corporate citizenship; price; communications; customer service; and field service.