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Byline: Bill Koenig
Oct. 8--It was summer. The temperature had reached nearly 90 degrees. The humidity was 84 percent.
But Indiana's gas utilities were talking to state officials about heating bills and how to soften the impact of big increases in the price of natural gas.
Today, temperatures are in the 30s and 40s, and those higher heating costs are on the way. But the two sides still aren't close to a plan.
In fact, stumbling blocks remain to two major ideas proposed this summer to help cope with natural gas prices, which could rise as much as 50 percent.
-- Gas utilities strongly oppose a state proposal to cap natural gas prices this winter, then increase prices in the spring and summer.
-- The state may not be able to suspend the sales tax that consumers pay for natural gas. Gov. Frank O'Bannon cited an existing state law in ordering a sales-tax suspension on gasoline when prices skyrocketed this summer. But there are major questions that could prohibit the law from being used to cushion the looming natural gas price increases.
As a result, the state's response could end up being relatively modest. …