PureWest pledges to help local energy customers

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SUBLETTE COUNTY – In response to the skyrocketing natural-gas prices and energy shortfalls that shocked local natural gas customers, PureWest responded in two ways.

The first overall goal was to try and maximize its Pinedale Anticline production with one drill operating and evaluating development plans, according to PureWest’s Kelly Bott in late January.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division published numerous legal notices in the Pinedale Roundup related to new permitting.

“(The permits) are a mix of new facilities brought online, as well as an initiative to modify our air permits to reflect actual equipment as production declines and we are able to consolidate and/or remove redundancies in the field,” Bott explained at the time.

That was also when Pinedale Natural Gas owner Steven Shute discovered natural gas costs PNG and many other western suppliers were going to be face during what has shaped up to be a cold, snowy, windy winter calling for more energy use and much higher costs to customers.

“Up until Russia disrupted the world energy markets in late 2021, a typical residential customer would pay $700 to $800 in annual gas bills,” Shute said in an email this week.  “Now with much higher gas index prices, it’s more like $1,100 to 1,200, where the PNG delivery charges stayed the same.”

PureWest’s natural gas prices to wholesale customers do not affect the rates PNG and others are forced to pass along to customers during this long winter.

Because the market sets pricing for natural gas, we don’t have any control over pricing (and we certainly haven’t doubled rates for PNG), but at least we hope to be able to help those that are struggling with those high energy bills,” Bott said.

This has been a record, brutal winter, coupled with the highest-ever gas commodity prices.  As we’ve said all winter, these are battlefield rules, and PNG will be lenient on folks with big bills they struggle to pay, if they’re making an honest effort.”

Enter PureWest (formerly Ultra Resources), which quietly funded an energy assistance program last winter to help local PNG and propane customers pay heating bills or get some extra fuel delivered in cases of emergencies, lost jobs, illness or worse.

This is the second way PureWest is hoping to alleviate the lcoal energy-price crisis.

“We’re providing funds to the energy providers to make sure they have needed resources to assist customers that may be struggling with their energy bills. 

PureWest is repeating and increasing its pledges – “at least we hope to be able to help those that are struggling with those high energy bills,” Bott said.

“We’re hopeful PureWest’s donation will cover several months if not more for households needing some additional support,” Bott said.  “PureWest prioritizes basic human needs in our charitable giving program – health care, education, energy and food security.  We understand that customers’ energy bills are high, and PureWest is working to give back to the communities that support us.”

PureWest’s Giving Committee is made of employees, including those living and working in Pinedale, Bott said. The committee is continually evaluating the needs of the community. With current energy prices, energy assistance has become a top priority for the committee and PureWest. 

The company has also pledged help struggling propane customers, which it did last year, according to TeAnn Egle, office manager at Valley Wide Propane.

Last winter, Egle and Shute said PureWest left it to their staffs to put money “to the best use for the highest needs.”

“We gave all of this as credits to 32 customers for an average of $156 each,” Shute said. “Most of these were single women on fixed incomes. Some were widows and the rest were families where the major breadwinner was not employed due to illness or injury. One was raising a brother’s three kids and was between jobs.”

Bott said, “We are hopeful there’s enough there to support customers for the foreseeable future, and we’ll be checking in with the providers throughout the year to see if there’s additional needs that we can help with.”

In the meantime, Shute encourages PNG customers to apply for the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program and to try and pay something. Visit PinedaleGas.com for more information.

“Message to PNG customers:  If you get in trouble, please call us, discuss your options, and at least keep paying something toward your bill.”