New Jersey Natural Gas says its residential customers will soon be paying slightly more to heat their homes.

Spokesman Mike Kinney says the utility has received New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approval for a 5 percent basic gas supply service increase starting Feb. 1.

"What is driving this is colder weather in October and November and the potential for sustained colder weather this winter," he said.

The average residential bill will increase about $3.51 a month for the utility's 500,000 customers in Monmouth, Ocean and Morris counties.

"So the typical heating customer for New Jersey Natural Gas, using 100 therms a month, will see their bill go from $ 97.89 to about $101.40," he said.

"The forecast wholesale natural gas price for the winter months of December 2018 thorough March 2019 have increased by as much as 44 percent from when we filed our original basic gas supply service filing with the BPU back in May."

But there have also been some indications that this winter may turn out milder. In response, Kinney says, "we continue to monitor conditions, and will pass savings along to customers as appropriate. But at this point in time, we are seeing higher prices, higher wholesale prices that is driving the need for this increase."

But Kinney says even with the increase, New Jersey Natural Gas customers' bills are still 40 percent lower than they were in 2008.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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