Long Beach utility customers can expect some significant relief in February after natural gas prices plunged from a historic high of $3.81 per therm in January to about $1.28 per therm this month—a roughly 66% decrease.
Last month saw cold winter weather coupled with a dramatic increase to the cost of natural gas in the region, with officials pointing to a multitude of issues including maintenance on pipelines, low supply due to shipments being exported to Europe and even the drought.
The January cost per therm was about $3.81, and December’s was about $1.42. November’s price was about 77 cents per therm. The decline in the February price is expected to bring some much-needed relief to customers who have taken to social media to share their gas bills, many of them hundreds of dollars more than what customers said was typical for their household.
Earlier this year, the city’s Utilities Department said that the average single-family household used about 65 therms of natural gas, but because of the spike in commodity costs, it would result in an average increase of about $189.61 compared to the previous January.
The cost of 65 therms in January was $247.66. Under the February price, which was posted Wednesday, it would be about $83.
The Long Beach City Council is holding a special meeting Wednesday night to consider establishing a relief fund for people who may be struggling to pay their utility bills. For the fund, the council is proposing taking revenue generated by the city’s utility users tax, which is charged to residents and businesses for using electricity, phone, water and gas services, which has also increased along with the cost of natural gas.
A council memo said that an estimated $1.5 million could be available to establish a relief fund. The $1.5 million represents the overage from what city budget officials had anticipated when the budget was adopted by the City Council in September.
The city’s Utilities Commission is also meeting Thursday morning, where it will receive a report on the department’s potential use of price hedging in the future to help minimize the effect of price instability in the natural gas market.