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December 9, 2009     The Sun Paper
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December 9, 2009
 

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Heating your home might actually be cheaper this year 1 Gas prices drop 16 percent for residential customers By Jr Mclntyre Correspondent, The Sun How often do prices go down? In this bad economy, more often than we'd think. NW Natural, a natural gas utility serving the Pacific Northwest, including the West Valley, asked the Oregon Pub- lic Utility Commission to allow them to cut gas prices in Oregon by 16 percent for residential customers. "Natural gas prices were down dramatically in 2009 from record highs in 2008 which allowed us to file for lower rates," said Jenna Coo- per-Gross, media specialist for NW Natural. When the new rates went in to effect on Nov. 1 this year, average Oregon residential cus- tomers using 55 therms per month saw a drop in their monthly bills of about $13. The average commercial customer received a 19 percent cut and industrial firm customers saw their rates go down 31 percent. Other fuel rates have been stable. Prices for firewood vary ac- cording to the type of wood and whether it is seasoned by being sheltered for several months as it dries. Well-seasoned oak costs about $200 a cord. A cord of wood measures four feet by four feet by eight feet. Bob Eddy of Eddy Logging in Willamina said he sees a lot of prices, ranging from $120 a cord to $150 a cord. Andy Monroe of Monroe Oak in Sheridan said demand for firewood has been pretty steady. Production of milled wood products has been lower this year than in the past due to the poor economy, so they have a waiting-list of customers for fire wood. ' "Fii'ewood is a byproduct for us," he said. "We have not changed our prices this year, though it has gone up some in the last five years." Their wood is green and sells for $90 a cord, not including delivery. Their charge to deliver is based on distance. They recommend that buy- ers get their wood in the spring so it can dry by winter. With a backyard woodlot, type and cost of fuel is not an issue. Trees are renewable and nearby and as the saying goes, "Wood heats you twice - once when you cut it and again when you bum it." West Valley customers get their electricity from PGE. PGE spokesman Steve Corson said PGE rate changes normally come at the beginning of each new year. For 2009, the OPUC ap- proved an average rate increase of 5.6 percent, but come Janu- ary 2010, rates will increase by just 0.2 percent for residential customers, he said. Similarly, there will be a slight decrease for commercial and industrial customers as well. Consumers probably will see another increase in 2011. Rates are adjusted regularly taking many different factors into account, such as costs to buy natural gas, coal, hydro and Photo by Susan Ragan Heating homes with natural gas will cost the home owner 16 percent less this year compared to last year, says NW Natural. wind. Some fuel prices went down this year, but wind farm costs and fish passage expenses ,.-.went.up and they about cancel each other out. Many major investments still need to be made for con- ventional and renewable power, transmission installation and a new gas plant in central east- ern Oregon near Boardman. "Demand is increasing and expectedto continue to increase," Corson said. "We haven't built much new capacity yet." State regulators require wind and solar powered elec- tricity generation since the state legislature passed laws de- manding that 25 percent of all electricity produced by 2025 be from 'renewable' sources, not including existing hydropower. If the state's hydroelectric dams had been included, Or- egon would already have met the 25 percent requirement. There is something called low impact hydro which includes fish passage facilities, that can be counted toward the renew- able requirement. The legislature recognizes the higher cost of renewable en- ergy and allows customers to pay more for it on a voluntary basis. "We do have voluntary pro- grams that are very successful," Corson said. "About 8 percent of our cus- tomers enroll in this. They pay a premium about $11 on an av- erage bill of$100 a month. PGE ranks number one in overall renewable power that we sell to residental power customers in the whole US." Tax ts help and pellet stove buyers A1 McCandless, of Your end of 2010. wood to pellets, hesaid, two Fireplace and Stove Profes- Tax credits often result in tons of pellets give the same sionals in Sheridan, said he increased prices "for whatever amountofheatasthreeords is seeing a larger inercase in the credit applies to, and of seasoned wood on aver- sales of his wood and pellet stoves are no different. While age. stoves than his other offer- overall inflation has been run- Thus, pellet stores are less ings, such as gas stoves, elec- ning one percent to two per- expensive to run than wood tric and gas fireplaces, and cent, stove prices have gone stoves. Pellet stoves also can freestanding gas and oil up about 11 percent over the be put on a thermostat and stoves, last two years, will run like a furnace. "With "There are some very sig- "Very few of our installs wood you have to regulate niticant tax credits," he said. cost $4500 to get the maxi- temperatures yourself," he While some older wood mum credit," MeCandless said, making it harder to stoves that are not certified said. "Most installs run regulate home temperatures can't be reinstalled else- around $3,000, .so you get with a wood stove. where, new ones do qualify about $1.000 in federal tax It is about 12 percent for tax credits, credit and $300 from the more expensive to heat a Pellet or wood stoves can get a 25 percent state tax credit up to $300 when they buy a new stove. A federal tax credit of 30 percent up to $1500 also applies. These state." home with a gas furnace than Wood prices haven't in- with wood or pellet stoves, creased much, but pellet but with gas you don't have priees have gone up about 4.5 to worry about having percent in the last year. Pellet enough pellets on hand. Gas costs run around $230 to water heaters are less expen- credits are in effect until the $235 per ton. Comparing sire  electric ones. Wednesday, December 9, 2009, The Sun 7 GUN BUY SELL GUNS KNIVES AMMUNITION & MORE Saturday, December 12.8am-5pm Sunday, December 13.9am-4pm at P01k County Fairgrounds Adults $5.00. Children under 12 IvIE Call 503-623-3048 for more info. We're your local community college, offering- Quality instruction Small classes Transferable courses * Affordable tuition Register now. Winter term classes begin January 4. Call 503.472.9482. WARM UP SHERIDAN! ...and overdue fines! Bring new or gently use clean anl m good repam Sleeping Bag,, Blankets, & Jackets RECEIVE UP TO 2/11 in fine credits v a- ! on your re:count Dec. 1-15, 2009 Chamber Corner What's up in Willamina By Mary Jane Coastal Hills Chamber of Commerce GIFT SUBSCRIPTION ONLY $29/YEAR The Art Tour is but a memory. There were a lot of people in town having a won- derful time looking at the vari- ous types of art and riding around in the horse drawn wagon. Lots of smiles and good comments. However, next year the tour may be held earlier in the year. Hoping for warmer weather. This past Saturday night saw more smiles in Wil- lamina. Santa came to town at the end of the Light Parade. He arrived in a horse drawn carriage that was definitely lit up. He followed several large floats that had a thousand lights on them, if they had ten. There were more smiles when the kiddies got to sit on his lap at Coyote Joe's, while their parents were sipping hot cider and munching on donuts that were provided by the EID and Coastal Hills Chamber of Commerce. We don't know yet who won the awards for the parade, but they'll be announced soon. The town is all decorated and waiting for Christmas to arrive. Several of the stores have great gift ideas. If you can't fmd something that's just right for that someone, you can always get them a gift certifi- cate. Even your pet can be taken care of at the dog grooming parlor on Main St. Also on Main Street is a new face behind the counter at Fat Cat. She's not new to the area, just new behind the counter. The old owners have decided to rest for awhile af- ter turning over the keys and recipes to her. Meanwhile, Coyote Joe's is preparing to serve their annual free Christmas dinner. This is a complete dinner of salad, tur- key or ham with all the trim- mings with choice of beverage and dessert. There will be live music and Santa will be there to pass out gifts to children and seniors. Dinner will be served between 11 a.m, and 2:30 p.m.. to whomever wishes to join in the festivities on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, Merry Christ- mas and Happy New Year to all of you. :ire the ... 52 times a year! That's a lot of giving, for a very small price: 1 Year - $29 2 Years - $48 (in Yamhill & Polk Counties) Just fill out the coupon & enclose your payment. We'll send a gift notice and 52 weeks of West Valley newsl I Please send a iff subscription to: Name I MAILING Address I cny I From State  zip __ I I Please enclose payment for correct amount I IN POLK AND YAMHILL COUNTIES: I I-I 2 Years- $48- Save $30 off the news stand pdce!l [] 1 Year - $29 - Save ,10 off the news stand pdce! i I OUT OF AREA: [] 1 Year = $39 [] 2 Years = $68 |fh''SUl" 53-8"43-31 " i  136 E. Main. PO BOX 68 Sheridan, OR 97378 q