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Colder winter pushing up natural gas prices

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's largest natural gas utility is blaming the colder-than-normal winter for higher bills about to be paid by residential customers on budget payment plans.

Columbus-based Columbia Gas of Ohio says the typical customer will pay $87 a month right away, a jump of $20.

The Columbus Dispatch reports Thursday (http://bit.ly/NWY1dZ ) that about one in every three of the company's 1.4 million customers uses a budget plan that evens out payments across the year.

Columbia Gas blames the 30-percent increase in budget payments on a jump in natural-gas prices caused by an increase in demand during a winter marked by unusual stretches of very cold temperatures.

The federal government's Energy Information Administration says gas prices hit a four-year high this winter.

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