Gas official explains billing procedures for high altitude | AspenTimes.com
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Gas official explains billing procedures for high altitude

Naomi Havlen

Kinder Morgan’s natural gas rates are adjusted for various average altitudes in the state of Colorado, a company official said Wednesday in defense of a lawsuit filed last week by the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs.According to Kinder Morgan’s retail president, Dan Watson, the company averages out the elevation of its 45,000 residential natural gas customers on the Western Slope. That way, the price of natural gas sold to customers at higher altitudes is adjusted.Gas expands at increasing amounts above sea level, lowering a certain volume of the gas’ heating efficiency. The physics law at stake is the basis of the class action lawsuit between the gas company and Aspen and Glenwood Springs.The suit claims that Kinder Morgan and its pipeline company, Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Co., don’t make adjustments to consider the effects of a lower atmospheric pressure on natural gas.Western Slope residents therefore must purchase more gas to heat their homes than residents at lower altitudes, the suit claims.Watson and the company have said in a press release that adjustments are made to compensate for higher altitude, and on Wednesday Watson attempted to explain further.”We have a local billing pressure factored into each bill, and it’s a weighted average, so that the billing pressure we have for our Western Slope residential customers is 5,900 feet,” Watson said. Aspen is 7,900 feet above sea level, and Glenwood Springs is at 5,763.Elsewhere in Colorado, the company bills according to different averages. For example, Watson said the Denver metro area is billed at an average of 5,280 feet above sea level, and northeastern Colorado is billed at 3,500 feet high.Watson said it wouldn’t be economically feasible to install the technology at each residential gas meter on the Western Slope to factor in individual elevations. Providing a public utility involves cost sharing among customers to provide a service for everyone, he said. Otherwise, he said, Kinder Morgan would have just charged Aspen gas customers for the $2 million pipe replacement happening this summer in downtown Aspen.”We don’t run a cab service where the meter runs as soon as you get into the cab, and you pay what it costs to go where you want to go,” Watson said. “We’re like a bus service. You pay your dollar, you ride and you get off, and you were part of the total pool associated with this service.”And Watson denied the lawsuit’s allegations that charge the gas company with bilking customers out of millions of dollars by charging more for gas. The sale of gas is dollar-balanced, he said, meaning that if the company purchases $1 worth of gas, they sell it to customers at $1.Furthermore, he said, the company’s billing methods have been approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Aspen City Attorney John Worcester, however, claims this is an issue that the Colorado PUC has been ignoring for years, which is why the case was filed in Garfield County District Court.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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