NW Natural continues to rank among the best gas utilities for customer satisfactionFor the eighth consecutive year, NW Natural has ranked among the top utilities for customer satisfaction, earning the second-highest score in the nation and in the West, according to a J.D. Power and Associates Gas Utility Residential study. The study also found that, despite soft economic conditions, satisfaction with billing and payment and customer service improved over 2010. The study was based on responses from customers of the 75 largest gas utilities in the nation. Customer growth rate remains around one percent NW Natural’s customer growth rate for the trailing 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2011 was 0.8 percent, with the company adding approximately 5,400 new customers in the period. This compared to an annual growth rate of 1.2 percent a year ago. Operating results for the third quarter Results from utility operations are typically low during the third quarter due to reduced use of natural gas in summer months. As a result, utility operations recorded a net loss of $9.5 million (35 cents per share) in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $9.1 million (34 cents per share) in the same quarter of 2010. Gas storage contributed net income of $1.2 million (4 cents per share), compared to net income of $1.8 million (7 cents per share) in 2010’s third quarter. NW Natural’s total gas sales and transportation deliveries in the third quarter of 2011, excluding deliveries of gas stored for others, were 158 million therms, down 3 percent from 163 million therms in 2010’s third quarter. The decrease in usage was mainly due to warmer weather. Margin from utility operations in 2011 decreased 1 percent to $41.0 million, compared to $41.3 million in 2010. Volumes sold to residential and commercial customers in the third quarter of 2011 were 54 million therms, down 3 percent from 56 million therms in the third quarter of 2010 due mainly to warmer weather. Utility margins from residential and commercial customers in the quarter totaled $32.9 million, increasing 1 percent over third-quarter 2010 margin of $32.5 million. NW Natural’s decoupling mechanism in Oregon adjusted margin down by $0.1 million in 2011, compared to a margin adjustment decrease of $1.0 million in the third quarter of 2010, primarily driven by weather that was warmer than average in the period.