Pittsburgh area residents noticing, reporting unusually high gas bills

PITTSBURGH — Residents are reporting particularly high gas bills this winter, and they aren’t alone.

According to industry experts, the average consumer’s bill is about 30% higher than it was this time last year.

“It was something that made me suck in my breath till I thought I’d turn blue,” said Dennis Sweeney, of Mount Lebanon, referring to a recent $280 bill.

“It’s been extraordinary,” he said.

Jackie Lewis, of Brookline, told Channel 11 her gas bills have been $250 or higher.

So what’s driving it?

Lee Gierczynski, spokesman for Columbia Gas, told us “increased demand for natural gas, both globally and domestically, are driving up costs.”

He said there are other factors at play too, including “weather, storage capacity and financial markets.”

But there may be relief in sight.

“The market forecast projects that the increase in natural gas price is likely going to be short-term, and that the pricing beyond this winter is going to start to moderate as production levels better match up with future demand for natural gas,” Gierczynski said.

He noted that Columbia and other utility companies do not set the market pricing for natural gas, and they do not profit from that portion of your bill.

To reduce your usage, you can invest in insulation, seal any cracks in your home and adjust your thermostat.

According to Gierczynski, consumers are also encouraged to monitor their usage. Budgeting options exist, too, and Columbia offers assistance programs and grants to eligible customers.

Consumers certainly hope to see some relief soon.

“Everything’s just going up,” Lewis said. “Everything.”