The Public Utilities Commission approved an immediate 14 percent cut Friday in the price Southwest Gas Co. charges for natural gas in Western Nevada and the Tahoe Basin.
The reduction was worked out by commission staff and the utility because Southwest officials say the price they pay for natural gas has been dropping in the wake of the huge increases that began in late 2000.
"It's always great to see rates go down," said Commissioner Adriana Escobar Chanos.
The ruling will reduce the average Southwest customer's bill in Northern Nevada by more than $16 a month.
PUC Chairman Don Soderberg commended both staff and the utility pointing out that, "when this case was filed, it was a lot different."
Southwest initially asked the commission not to lower the gas rate.
"Especially as we go into the winter season in the Carson area, it's good to be able to provide some relief," Soderberg said. "The company handled this very responsibly."
"We're pleased to implement these decreases prior to the onset of winter weather," said Southwest Vice President Roger Montgomery.
In addition, the commission's order lowers rates by about 4 percent in Southern Nevada where Southwest has 450,000 customers. That reduction will save southern Nevada customers an average of $1.38 a month.
The reason for the difference, Southwest officials said, is that Northern Nevada has access to less expensive Canadian natural gas supplies.
Combined, Southwest officials say the decreases will save customers $22.2 million annually.
In the north, Southwest has 100,000 customers from Yerington through Douglas County, Carson City and the eastern side of the Tahoe basin as well as Truckee. The company also serves Fernley and Fallon and communities along the Interstate 80 corridor.
But Reno and Sparks receive gas service from Sierra Pacific Power Co. That utility has filed a petition to delay any action on its gas rates until July. PUC officials haven't ruled on the petition yet.