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Is the Natural Gas Market in PA Competitive?

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) wants more consumers to choose their natural gas supplier.

The PUC voted unanimously to launch an investigation into the state’s retail natural gas market.

Pamela Witmer, PUC commissioner, said they want to assess whether effective competition exists within the market and search for places where improvements can be made.

She noted that Pennsylvania now has a “tremendous” resource of Shale Gas leading to an influx in the market.

“We’re seeing more companies want to come in and be licensed as natural gas suppliers, we thought the time was right now to go in and explore again why we’re still only at 13 percent on a statewide basis for consumers to shop,” Witmer said.

According to the PUC, only 13 percent of current customers in the state are buying gas from a competitive supplier.

“I think that there is a large segment of the consuming populace both on the commercial side as well as the residential side who aren’t aware that they have the ability to shop, so that is one of the things that we are very interested in trying to promote,” Witmer said.

Witmer said in the first phase of the investigation they will ask all interested parties including consumer groups and the natural gas supply industry a series of eight questions.

These question range from how accessible competitive suppliers are to consumers and if the existing market presents barriers that inhibit customer choice.

A natural gas stakeholder working group will review the answers in December and make recommendations to the Commission.

Witmer said people who are interested in making their own choice in gas distribution should go to the PUC’s website and plug in their zip code and they will get a list of all of the licensed competitive suppliers in their area.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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