Heritage Gas won approval to raise its rates yesterday.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board approved the natural gas provider’s request to raise the rates on its customers’ bills between four to 28 per cent.

For residential customers, it will mean an increase of about $12 a month. Ray Ritcey, president of Heritage Gas, said customers paid an average of $165 a month in 2008 and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009, they’ll pay $177.

They made the application in September for three reasons: Fewer customers than they forecasted actually connected to the system; the 2,000 customers in Amherst, Dartmouth and Halifax used less fuel than expected; and the cost of building out the system was higher than what they thought.

Still, it’s cheaper than heating oil, Ritcey said.

“Our customers have saved significant amounts of money over the past five years and they helped improve the air we breathe,” he said. “And probably the biggest opportunity of all is they remove the risk of a leaking oil tank.”

Heritage Gas will start pipeline construction again in May with plans to expand to Fairview, Clayton Park and Bayers Lake. They also have their sights set on Bedford and Sackville.

Even though revenue growth was less than expected, Ritcey said they’re optimistic about the future of natural gas in Nova Scotia. “We think the very reason the customers like the product is going to hold going forward, he said.

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