LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Southwest Gas customers across the Las Vegas valley and beyond are plagued by rising gas bills. The issue comes at a time when everyone’s wallets are stretched thin by rising everyday costs like groceries and insurance.
Betty Hollister struggled to wrap her head around the rising cost Saturday. She said she paid nearly $300 for January 2023.
“This year it was $485 so let’s round that to $500,” Hollister explained. “I only used 22 more therms, but that $300 to $500 represents a 66% increase in my bill.”
Hollister’s 66% increase is just one of several email and social media responses from customers in disbelief at their gas bill.
Hank Hope wrote to 8 News Now and reported a 62% increase year over year, with just 5% more usage. Kandace Valentine, a North Las Vegas resident with a two-story, five-bedroom home, reported being charged more money in December 2023 than in 2022 despite using less gas. Her bill has climbed from $124 in November 2023 to $300 in December and $360 in January 2024.
“I turned my water heater down a couple weeks ago, but I do not know how much it will change,” she wrote in an email.
Southwest Gas blamed the bump in customer bills on their increased gas cost.
The company’s statement read in part, “Natural gas […] is subject to price fluctuations based on a variety of factors, including supply and demand. Colder than normal weather in the western United States during […] November 2022 through January 2023 time period, combined with the residual effects of winter storm Uri and the war in Ukraine, placed upward pressure on western U.S. gas prices.”
While Annette Aerenson understands, she said the increase shouldn’t be to this extent.
“I am petrified to use my heat, to cook because I am afraid next month it will go to $800,” she said. “It has shown an increase of 100%.”
Her bill jumped from $115 in December to $230 in January and $430 is due mid-February.
Southwest Gas sent another response Saturday morning. “In October 2023, the Southern Nevada gas cost rates decreased by about $0.069 per therm, compared to the gas cost rates effective July 2023. Similarly, the Southern Nevada gas cost rates decreased in January 2024 by approximately $0.027 per therm, when compared to the gas cost rates effective October 2023.”
Meantime, 82-year-old retiree Marianne Laslo is feeling the pinch with hundreds of others. She posted on the Nextdoor app and was shocked to see the different reactions from people in a similar situation.
“There’s a little increase and then another so the accumulative is 85%,” she said.
Laslo’s complaints to SWG and government officials have gone unanswered. She pointed a finger toward The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada which approved changes. The PUCN is currently considering a SWG’s request to boost rates by about 10% in April.
Laslo brought up the recent bonuses for SWG executives. The request rate hike is about two percentage points higher than the 8% raise SWG’s former president and CEO James P. Hester received in 2022.
He pocketed $6.13 million in 2022, up from $5.674 million in 2021, according to the company’s 2023 proxy statement.
The next PUCN hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.
When asked about the possibility of the hike in April, and the previously mentioned $8.14 increase for consumers, SWG sent the following statement:
Southwest Gas currently anticipates that its gas cost rates will again decrease April 2024 when compared to the gas cost rates effective January 2024. The Company’s general rate case application is still pending with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, and therefore, customer rates have not yet been approved.
Here is Southwest Gas’s full statement on the reason behind rising costs:
Southwest Gas understands that customers may be facing higher than usual energy bills.
The Company experiences fluctuations in the cost of natural gas, which it procures on behalf of its customers, and passes those costs straight through with no mark-up or profit to the Company. Natural gas, like any commodity, is subject to price fluctuations based on a variety of factors, including supply and demand. Colder than normal weather in the western United States during the November 2022 through January 2023 time period, combined with the residual effects of winter storm Uri and the war in Ukraine, placed upward pressure on western US gas prices. These increased gas costs have been the primary driver of the recent increased customer bills.
The Company uses a 12-month rolling average of previously incurred natural gas costs to develop a portion of its gas cost rates. Consequently, there is a lag between the time in which the Company incurs the cost to procure natural gas on behalf of its customers and the time in which it charges customers for that previously incurred cost. Although Southwest Gas’ Nevada customers have experienced increased gas cost rates over the past year or so primarily as a result of those external factors, they have experienced decreased gas cost rates in the Company’s two most recent Nevada quarterly gas cost adjustments. We are hopeful that trend can continue.
We want to remind customers anytime during the year that we offer tips, tools and programs to help manage their gas bills and energy usage. Southwest Gas has simple conservation tips for our residential customers to help keep winter heating bills down and conserve energy use. More information about energy conservation can be found at www.swgas.com/energy-saving-tips.
Customers who need assistance paying their bill are encouraged to visit www.swgas.com/en/nv-special-programs to learn more about available financial assistance programs, such as the Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program, as well as flexible payment plan options.