Don’t let higher gas rates drown out the good
Thursday’s edition of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette shared some bad news: An increase in natural gas rates by one of our largest utilities. But we must urge our readers to consider the positive attributes of living here when digesting this negative news.
We cannot fault UGI Utilities for raising rates — for one, the industry’s pricing practices are heavily regulated and chained to their cost of purchasing natural gas. Also, we suspect the same labor pressures driving up wages and salaries throughout the economy have their own impact on that price UGI pays for natural gas.
We instead can look at three silver linings: UGI Utilities offers customers on limited or fixed incomes both a company-sponsored assistance program and also participates in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a federally-funded initiative. Readers who may benefit from these programs can call 800-276-2722 for more details.
Second, many of our neighbors, friends and family are seeing those bigger paychecks themselves. From September 2020 to September 2021 wages and salaries increased by about 4.4%, the Associated Press reported in late October. According to the AP the U.S. is seeing the biggest increase in pay in at least 20 years — certainly a preferable course for the economy than the years of increasing home prices and rent and increasing out-of-pocket costs for health care and retirement planning paired with stagnant pay.
And third and perhaps most importantly, as the report in Thursday’s edition said, “prices in Pennsylvania have remained lower than in other parts of the country because of local Marcellus Shale production, (UGI Vice President Chris) Brown said.”
The benefit to our region from the development of natural gas — the jobs created, the gas leasing revenue paid to local families, the impact fee revenue benefitting the region’s communities and now the postponement of increases in utility bills — cannot be overstated. Even when our monthly heating bills are a little higher.