Heat prices rising
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County residents will be paying more to heat their homes this winter – if there’s enough heat to go around. Xcel Energy Company recently released its October price estimates, showing increases this year of more than a third over October 2004 and similar increases in December, when the mercury begins to dive.Kathy McCormick of Frisco isn’t looking forward to the bills.”Every year it keeps going up,” she said. “It’s awful, especially when you have to work three jobs to make ends meet up here anyway. We don’t have any options.” Jackie Crandall of Summit Cove is trying to lessen the impact on her finances by stocking up on firewood for her wood-burning stove.”I figured if I didn’t burn it this year I’d burn it next year,” she said. “I think they do increase (the prices) every year.” A devastating hurricane season and high summer demand for natural gas to run air conditioning units are the primary culprits blamed for the price hike. Xcel projects that the average residential customer will shell out $21 more next month than last October and $43 more this December than the same month last year. But escalating bills may be the least of Summit County’s worries. Heated sidewalks and gutter systems, coupled with a growing population, have put extra pressure on the gas supply.Should the nights turn brutally cold on a bustling tourism weekend like Presidents Day, portions of Summit, Lake, and Grand counties could literally run out of natural gas. The heat would remain off until the demand on the system lessened. To address the problem, Xcel proposed a new natural gas facility be built in Boulder County near Superior, but the Boulder County Commissioners denied the proposal, directing the company to make improvements to an existing station in Louisville before building a new facility.Back to the drawing board, Xcel will present a proposal for a temporary compressor station to be hooked into the Louisville station this Wednesday before the Boulder County Planning Commission. The compressor would allow a higher volume of gas to be pumped through the lines, pushing plenty of heat up into the mountains.Should the commission approve the proposal, the county commissioners will consider the new plan Sept. 29. Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said the company would need to begin construction on the temporary compressor by the mid-October to finish in December, in time to test the apparatus. “If the temporary compressor station is not approved, there’s a potential for no gas in certain areas,” Henley said. “If there’s no compression to push the natural gas, then the areas it can’t push it to essentially trickle off and there’s no gas there.”At their June 14 denial of Xcel’s initial proposal, Boulder Commissioner Tom Mayer supported a permanent fix at the Louisville site, but Henley said building a permanent facility would require moving the building and re-laying 11,000 feet of pipeline. The present, however, is just as unclear as the future.”The residents at the Louisville site were quite concerned,” Henley said of a hearing held on the temporary compressor. “They essentially said they didn’t think it should go in there regardless.” Should the Boulder Commission deny the temporary fix, the only remaining option would be for Xcel to appeal to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Though it has the power, the CPUC has never superseded a local government’s authority.CPUC spokesman Terry Bote said the commission, if approached, would do its best to make a quick decision, but said outlining a definite timeline is impossible. If and when the well will run dry is difficult to predict, as well.”It depends on the temperature and it depends on what type of (population) there is at the time of the cold (weather),” Henley said. “Our best bet is to not run into that situation and we’re going to do our darnedest to not be put into that situation.”Mike Morris can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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