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National Fuel predicts heating costs will nearly double this winter

A hand turning down a thermostat

National Fuel is issuing an alert to Western New York customers that hefty increases may be pending for this winter's heating bills.

The utility cited significant rises in natural gas commodity prices, that follow two years of historic lows.

National Fuel also notes that this winter's weather may be colder and snowier than last year, which was determined to be 10% warmer than normal.

About 90% of the region's homes and businesses heat with natural gas. The utility compared last year's average residential heating costs of $498 from November-March to a projected $714 for the upcoming five months: a 43% hike.

National Fuel cited the state's one-time Home Energy Assistance Program, Regular Arrears Supplement, to help gas and electric customers pay past due balances to avoid shutoffs. Other assistance programs are available, including the Neighbor for Neighbor Heat Fund, deferred payment agreements, Special Protections, the state's Emergency Rental Assistance Program and year-round budget plans.