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Columbia natural gas price falls to 14-year low

Sunday, April 01, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbia Gas of Ohio said today that its natural gas commodity price for April will be 37 cents per hundred cubic feet (Ccf), the lowest price since 1998.

The price is 39% lower than it was in April 2011 (61 cents), and 14% lower than the March 2011 price (43 cents). The average residential bill is expected to be more than $23 lower in April than it was a year ago ($61.59 vs. $84.78).

The decline in price is happening at the same time that Columbia is introducing a gas pricing system for its customers who have not selected a natural gas supplier through the company’s Customer CHOICE program.

Effective with the April billing cycle, the Standard Choice Offer (SCO) price replaces the Standard Service Offer (SSO). SCO customers will see the name of one of five SCO suppliers – Delta Energy, DTE Energy Trading, Hess Corporation, Interstate Gas Supply or Volunteer Energy Services – on their bills beginning in April.

The April SCO price will be in effect from today through April 29. Based on this price, the typical residential customer using 90 Ccf of natural gas would see a total April bill of $61.59. The total bill includes Columbia Gas delivery charges and taxes.

Columbia’s SCO price will be adjusted each month to reflect the natural gas market price on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Monthly SCO price information is available at the company’s web site at Standard Choice Offer.

Columbia customers do not have to take any action as a result of this change. SSO customers will automatically become SCO customers. All SCO suppliers will charge the same regulated price for natural gas. CHOICE® customers aren’t affected.

SCO suppliers are selected through an annual retail gas supply auction overseen by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The first retail auction was held Feb. 14 and resulted in a Retail Price Adjustment of $1.53 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), or $0.153 per Ccf, which will be added to a monthly market settlement price to determine the SCO. The April settlement price was $2.191 per Mcf. The Retail Price Adjustment represents the supplier’s non-gas costs of doing business.

Columbia Gas of Ohio will continue to maintain its pipeline system, respond to emergencies, answer customer calls about utility service, offer payment plans, read meters and send bills to all customers, regardless of their gas supplier.

CHOICE® customers may choose to return to Columbia’s SCO rate at any time, but should review their supplier contract for any cancellation fees. SCO customers will have the option to switch to a CHOICE® supplier at any time.

Columbia has produced an educational video about its SCO program. The video is available on Columbia's web site at SCO Video. The SCO is another step in the evolution of natural gas pricing to a market-driven system.

The PUCO approved a settlement in December 2009 which called for Columbia to implement a wholesale auction, the SSO, from April 2010 through March 2012, followed by an SCO system in April 2012.  SSO customers did not see a supplier name on their bill and continued to purchase gas from Columbia on a wholesale basis.

About Columbia Gas of Ohio

Columbia Gas of Ohio safely delivers clean and efficient natural gas to approximately 1.4 million customers in 61 of Ohio’s 88 counties. With headquarters in Columbus, it is one of the seven energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) and is the largest natural gas utility in the state. NiSource companies deliver energy to approximately 3.8 million customers located within the high-demand energy corridor stretching from the Gulf Coast through the Midwest to New England.

Be sure to call 811 at least two business days before you dig. For information about natural gas safety and what to do if you suspect a gas leak, go to: SafeGasOhio.org