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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008                                        
CONTACT:  Leah Mohr, Communications Manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201

PUC says be prepared for higher heating costs

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is urging residents to prepare for increased heating costs this winter. The expected prices of natural gas, heating oil and propane will be substantially higher than consumers experienced last winter.

According to data provided by the Energy Information Administration, residential heating fuel costs in the Midwest are expected to increase this winter around 50 percent for natural gas, 37 percent for heating oil and 32 percent for propane when compared to last winter.

"The cost of crude oil directly affects the price of most types of heating fuel," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Propane is created as a by-product of crude oil refining; crude oil is a major cost component of heating oil; and crude oil, along with declining net imports, increased demand and lower inventories, drives up the price of natural gas," he explained.

The PUC has regulatory authority over investor-owned natural gas companies and plays an educational role in informing consumers about energy and other utility issues. The commission receives regular updates from the state's natural gas companies as the winter heating season approaches.

"We are talking about significant cost increases consumers will face very soon," said PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck. "It is crucial folks who use natural gas, heating oil and propane be prepared to pay more to heat their homes this winter than they did last year. We don't want any South Dakotan to be caught off-guard when they receive their winter heating bill," said Kolbeck.

PUC commissioners and staff are discussing winter heating costs with consumers at fairs and other events this summer. The PUC will be represented at the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen through Aug. 17 and at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron, Aug. 28 – Sept. 1.

"It may be difficult to think about the upcoming South Dakota winter when summer temps are registering in the 80s and 90s," said PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "In fact, now is the best time to prepare your home for winter by filling your heating oil tank, weatherizing your home with additional insulation and talking to your utility company about a balanced billing option," he said.

For information on making energy efficiency home improvements for the winter, see the South Dakota Energy Smart Web site at or contact your energy provider's Web site for tips. For information about energy assistance available to qualifying South Dakotans, go to and click on "Energy Assistance."


Note to editors/producers: This is the first in a series of releases by the PUC about winter heating costs.