Hildale’s City Council gives warning of natural gas usage, discusses utility payment hike relief options

HILDALE — The officials of the two Short Creek communities gave good news and bad news in recent interviews and council meetings pertaining to the use of natural gas.

The Hildale City Council discusses the natural gas price increase and concerns at the monthly meeting, Hildale, Utah, Jan. 11, 2023 | Courtesy of Hildale City, St. George News

Warnings are being issued about reducing the usage of natural gas due to recent increases in natural gas prices throughout the western United States. The most recent warning was issued during the Hildale City Council monthly meeting last Wednesday.

“I am concerned,” said Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop. “This is a serious thing. When you get your January bill in February it will be higher.”

The biggest concern expressed is the safety of the residents as the price hike has leaders concerned about residents keeping the capability to stay warm.

“I am a citizen of this community,” Jessop said. “It is affecting all of us.”

The price hike

The purchase price of natural gas went up from $1.57 per therm to over $5.00 per therm since December.

For the Short Creek communities, the natural gas is provided by Summit Energy out of Salt Lake City. Summit sent a letter to the Colorado City, Arizona utilities department updating and warning them of the price hike.

“With demand increases, pipeline constraints, and storage deficits in the northwest natural gas has seen a lot of volatility,” the letter said.

Nationwide the average price was $0.553 per therm in Dec. 2022, according to the Henry Hub pipeline.

However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Utah was charging $1.35 per therm last October. The site does not have the prices for November or December.

Arizona showed an average of $2.74 per therm in December.

“We all get mad at the gas costs, but it’s not the gas station that is raking in the dough,” Duthie said. “They can only pass on the cost they get charged.”

At the moment, the cost of propane is lower than natural gas. As of January 9, the price was $2.607 per therm in the state on average, an increase from $2.37 per therm at the beginning of the year.

At the moment, Colorado City, Arizona residents have been using propane while Hildale City residents have been on natural gas.

However, Colorado City operations manager Weston Barlow reported that the prices for propane are going up and they predict the residents will start seeing it on their bills in an estimated two months.

The Hildale City Council recommended turning down thermostats to help battle natural gas price increase, Hildale, Utah, Jan. 11, 2023 | Courtesy of Adobe Stock for representational purposes only, St. George News

Options for the problem

Hildale City is implementing a natural gas-propane mixture they could use as an alternative source since it is a cheaper option at the moment.

The best part of the air-gas mixer method being implemented, no appliance conversion is necessary for the short term.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop released a public statement about the natural gas situation for the residents of the Short Creek area.

“The Utilities Department has reduced the flow of natural gas in the transmission line from Hurricane,” the statement said.

The administration has been recommending all reduce their natural gas consumption. The public statement added.

“We encourage natural gas users in Hildale to conserve wherever possible or use electricity. Should a customer feel the need to use propane, please contact the Utility Department first, at 435-467-1160, to insure a safe transition.”

Hildale will be starting a rent-to-own program for use of room electrical heaters. The city purchased about 40 heaters during the first week of January.

The price will be dependent on the applicants and what they can afford.

Other things such as grants and financial programs are being explored by city officials.

The last option mentioned is through the Five County Association of Governments which helps coordinate the federally funded program, Home Energy Assistance Target (H.E.A.T.). It provides year-round energy assistance for eligible low-income households throughout Utah.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

With more use of propane-type heaters, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a concern.

Utah Environmental Public Health Tracking Network lists the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning as dizziness, headaches, confusion, upset stomach, vomiting, weakness and the symptoms disappearing when you leave the area.

The recommendation if affected is to call state poison control and get out of the affected area.

The good news

“We finally have the final approvement by the federal government to transport natural gas to Colorado City,” Duthie said.

In a personal interview in December, Colorado City Mayor Howard Ream and Barlow, Jessop and Duthie explained the predicament that had to be overcome pertaining to natural gas in the Short Creek communities.

Barlow explained that the natural gas pipelines are in place for Colorado City and Hildale, but due to the Natural Gas Act and the regulations of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (F.E.R.C.), natural gas could not be transported over state lines. Since the mid-90s, the governments of Short Creek have been trying to get approval for Hildale to transport natural gas to Colorado City.

“It had nothing to do with the cities not being able to work together,” Jessop said. “It was 100% federal regulations…”

The federal commission signed the paperwork to allow the transportation of gas over state lines for Hildale and Colorado City back in October.

“It has been a lot of relationship building,” Jessop said in pertaining to getting this longtime pursuit accomplished.

Duthie and Barlow explained the system for natural gas is in place so the transfer over will be easier. It will be more cost-effective for the delivery of natural gas to the consumer. This is currently being implemented.

Duthie is hopeful the current problem with natural gas prices will be short-term as spring will bring about less need, but still, the city is doing its part by lowering thermostats, using room heaters and turning off rooms that are not being used.

“We are trying to set an example as well,” Duthie said. “Because the city has to pay for utilities as well.”

Jessop said at the end of the discussion if a resident is not able to pay their utility bill to come in and see them, as safety is of the utmost importance. She added they may not be able to pay bills, but they can help find other options.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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