CHICAGO (CBS) — December may have been gloomy, but it was about 7 1/2 degrees above average – meaning a break for consumer checkbooks.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Jim Chilsen, spokesman for the the Citizens Utility Board, says federal figures are predicting a 7 percent decrease this winter in Midwest gas heating bills.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

“We’re definitely seeing lower gas prices right now for Chicago consumers, and a big part of that is lower consumption,” Chilsen said.

Chilsen says this means sticker surprise – if not shock, in a nice way – when heating bills get opened.

“The typical Chicago customer could save roughly $7 this month, compared with to what he or she paid in January of 2011,” he said.

Chilsen says you should enjoy the shrunken bill while possible, because gas companies want Illinois regulators to approve a $120 million rate hike.

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