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FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2008, file photo, Wayne Holland of the Suburban Propane company delivers oil in Barre, Vt. Americans will pay more to heat their homes during the 2012-2013 winter season as they feel something they didn’t feel much of last year: cold. Fuel prices will be relatively stable, but customers will have to use more energy to keep warm than they did a year ago, according to the annual Winter Fuels Outlook from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration. NIPSCO, however, projects customers in northern Indiana to pay about what they did last year. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File) (AP)
NIPSCO estimates gas bills should stay at last winter’s levels

Posted on Oct. 10, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 10, 2012 at 5:19 p.m.

GOSHEN — NIPSCO said today, Oct. 10, they expect people to pay about the same for gas this winter as they did last year.

If the predictions turn out to be true, that will help remove uncertainty from customer budgets this year, which will especially help lower-income individuals and families, according to nonprofit local housing agency LaCasa.

“Market prices for natural gas continue to hold at historically low levels thanks in large part to plentiful domestic resources,” said Jim Stanley, NIPSCO CEO, in the announcement.

“This is great for our customers, especially as we head into the winter heating season, when utility bills typically reach their highest point of the year,” Stanley said.

The utility expects costs for gas to be down but overall usage up owing to last year’s abnormally mild winter.

NIPSCO’s average residential customer will pay $438 for November through March, compared to $440 last year, according to the utility’s projections.

Alan Greaser, LaCasa vice president of real estate, said, “That’s obviously good news if costs are going to not go up. A lot of people on fixed incomes have a hard time adjusting to those fluctuations.”

He also said, “In affordable housing, particularly projects where the tenant is responsible for their own utilities, that becomes a significant issue for them in the wintertime. If it’s not going to be worse for them than last year, that’s good news,” Greaser said.

NIPSCO pointed out comparisons released this month showing that the company has the lowest residential gas bills in the state for the 11th consecutive month.

NIPSCO will again provide funds through programs to supplement state and federal utility assistance dollars, according to the company.

Those programs can make a big difference for people with low incomes, Greaser said.