All four New Jersey natural gas utilities are looking to raise their rates later this year, with two of the companies seeking hikes that would increase consumer bills by more than $200 a year.

The requests, which must be approved by the state Board of Public Utilities, come after years of stable or even declining gas rates. Even with the hike, some utilities said the rates would still be lower than what they were a decade ago.

PSE&G has proposed the cheapest rate increase, which would tack on an additional $31 a year for a typical residential customer's bills. Public Service Electric and Gas, which services gas customers for much of Central and North Jersey, is seeking to raise its residential gas bills by 3.6 percent later this year.

New Jersey Natural Gas wants to raise its rate by 2.9 percent for customers in Monmouth, Ocean and Morris counties. A typical customer would pay $36 more a year.

Elizabethtown Gas and South Jersey Gas, however, want to raise their rates by double-digit percentage points.

For Elizabethtown Gas' 288,000 customers in Union County and the northwestern part of the state, they would pay at least 10.2 percent more, amounting to about $100 more a year for a customer who uses 100 therms of gas a month.

But the utility's filing with the BPU also calls for the potential for "self-implementing rate increases" of 5 percent in December and February, which would drive up the price difference to $211 more a year.

South Jersey Gas' 375,000 customers would face the steepest heating bill increases. The utility proposed raising its rates by at least 16.6 percent, which would amount to $243 extra a year. Two infrastructure improvement projects proposed by the company would increase bills by another $28 a year.

The rate increases would be implemented as soon as this fall.

PSE&G, which dropped its electric supply rate on Thursday, said its proposed gas rate hike would be the first
in nine years. Even with the hike, the rate would be half what it was in 2008, the company said.

“We work hard to keep our bills as stable as possible for customers,” Jorge Cardenas, PSE&G vice president of asset management and centralized services, said Thursday in a prepared statement. “By efficiently managing our gas supply contracts and purchases, we have kept our increase as small as possible.”

Cardenas blamed decreased production levels for the increase in gas prices, which the utility is allowed to pass on to consumers without making a profit.

“The costs for gas from the Marcellus shale region also are higher due to an increase in demand as a result of several pipeline expansions that are now accessing the Marcellus region as a supply source,” he said.

Elizabethtown's filing said the company "has taken all reasonable steps to reduce its gas costs and manage the volatility that has become characteristic of the natural gas commodity marketplace."

South Jersey Gas said the utility made $462 million in capital investments and projects since 2013, and wants to spend another $305 million next year on upgrading its system.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5.

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