MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Consumers face high gas bills after a colder-than-expected February, even though Minnesota utilities cut natural gas prices by about 30 percent during the month.
In January, Xcel Energy charged $1.26 per therm, then dropped that rate to 90 cents per therm for February. Reliant Energy Minnegasco's prices had a similar decline -- about 32 percent.
Those cuts signaled a reprieve for consumers. But Xcel's Ed Legge said Tuesday that February temperatures have been about 11 percent colder than normal, meaning it has taken more gas to heat houses.
Consumers will pay 60 to 75 percent more for natural gas this heating season than last year, Legge said.
There was some good news on the horizon. Prices for gas used during March were expected to fall moderately, state officials and the largest utilities said Tuesday.
Marya White, a Minnesota Commerce Department manager, said the wholesale cost of natural gas has been declining slightly as the nation moves into the last major month of the heating season.
The wholesale price for gas has fallen to about $5 per thousand cubic feet. Prices peaked at record levels of more than $10 during January.
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