Catholic Charities of Baltimore has announced a new energy assistance program that will provide one million gallons of heating oil to low-income city residents. Archbishop William Borders said Catholic Charities Oil will begin selling home heating oil next week to low-income families at 88 cents a gallon -- well below the average price of $1.10 a gallon.

Harold Smith, director of Catholic Charities, said the oil would be distributed in a non-denominational program based on need. Smith estimated the program may serve 3,200 city residents, nearly one-fourth of the more than 12,000 who received fuel assistance last winter.

Beginning Monday, residents can walk into the offices of Catholic Charities to place orders at the price of 88 cents that will be guaranteed for one month, Smith said. Smith said customers must pay in cash or by money order to keep down the price.

The service will be available only to families that can provide proof of income status by food stamp or Medicaid identifications or a financial statement, Smith said.

He said Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will buy the oil for the charity organization and has donated 50,000 gallons to get the project started. It will sell more oil to the new company at cost, Smith said.