Brrrrr, now pay up!

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Colorado Springs Utilities' customers are screaming bloody murder after getting their December bills, with some saying they're the "highest gas bills ever."

But remember that frigid streak that hit in December, and led Utilities to set an all time record for gas usage? Temps dipped below zero, and caused customers to nearly double their natural gas usage to 4.4 billion cubic feet in December from 2.5 billion cubic feet in November, utilities reports.

Across the U. S., December was the coldest since 1983. Colorado was one of nine states with temperatures considered "well below normal" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Utilities says customers can use energy more efficiently by taking certain steps, among them:

* Set your thermostat no higher than 68°F when at home, and 60°F when away or sleeping.

* Up to 20 percent savings can be achieved on heating bills by caulking around windows and weather-stripping around doors.

* Set your water heater no higher than 120°F.

The accompanying chart shows the NOAA's ranking of states by cold weather in December:

statewidetrank200912.gif

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