By Portland Business Journal

Natural gas rates for customers of two of three utilities in Oregon will fall this winter after the Oregon Public Utilities Commission approved a series of rate changes Monday.

Of importance to the Portland metro area, as of Nov. 1 the rates for customers of Portland-based Northwest Natural Gas Co. (NYSE: NWN) will fall for the third year in a row.

At NW Natural â¿¿ which serves 675,000 customers in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington â¿¿ the monthly bill for an average Oregon customer using 55 therms per month will fall by $1.64, or 2.4 percent, to $65.83. During peak heating season in January, when the typical residential customer consumes 206 therms, the average monthly bill will fall by 2.5 percent, or $3.15, to $121.31.

NW Natural said that it has reduced rates by 20 percent over the past three years.

Randy Friedman, the companyâ¿¿s director of gas supply, said the weak economy has led to a drop in demand for gas, while new supplies on the market have also helped keep prices down.

⿿This heating season, our customers will pay less for gas than they did in 2004,⿝ he said in a news release.

Elsewhere, the average residential customer of Cascade Natural Gas â¿¿ which serves central Oregon in the Bend region and parts of northeast Oregon â¿¿ will receive a 6.55 percent drop in their monthly bill, which will fall to $57.58.

Only Oregon customers of Spokane, Wash.-based Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA), will have their rates increase.

Avista, which serves parts of southwest and northeast Oregon, will raise rates 0.1 percent, or 9 cents per month, for the average residential customer.

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

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