LEWISTON — A rate estimate filing made Friday by Unitil Service Corp. may catch local natural gas customers by surprise, but state officials say it may be misleading.

Unitil, which recently took over natural gas service to customers in Auburn, Lewiston and several other Southern Maine communities from Northern Utilities Inc., filed a report listing an expected 59 percent increase from summer rates to winter rates.

Lucretia Smith, a utilities analyst at the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said rates usually rise significantly between the seasons.

“The 59 percent seems a bit high, just on the surface, but I’m not going to say that’s not common, and also because I am not sure as to whether their methodology in calculating it was the same as (the previous company used),” she said.

Smith said Unitil asked for, and was granted, an extension on filing a more detailed report, now due Sept. 8.

“This is just their estimate right now. They haven’t done their full detail filing so come Sept. 8, it will be different. How different it will be, I don’t know.” she said, adding that rates vary due to company estimates on use and gas prices.

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