OHIO: PUCO OKS SETTLEMENTS WITH DOMINION EAST, COLUMBIA GAS

     (The following press release from the Office of the Ohio Consumers' 
Counsel was received by e-mail and was reformatted. The sender verified the 
statement.) 
PRESS RELEASE 
PUCO approves Dominion, Columbia settlements                                     
COLUMBUS, OH – January 9, 2013 – Residential customers of Dominion East
Ohio Gas (Dominion) and Columbia Gas of Ohio (Columbia) will continue to
have the option of a “standard offer” to purchase their natural gas
through their respective utilities for at least the next few years.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) helped protect this
consumer choice in separate settlements with both Dominion and Columbia
that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved earlier
today.                                                                           
OCC’s approach to the cases has been that there is no need to fix
something that isn’t broken. The standard offer is not broken. Indeed,
consumers who select the standard offer have saved lots of money over
the years. Customers of Columbia Gas who chose alternatives to the
standard offer from other suppliers paid $885 million dollars more for
natural gas than the standard offer since 1997.                                  
"The standard offer has given consumers a great option that can save
them lots of money on their natural gas bills," Consumers' Counsel Bruce
Weston said. "Our settlements with the utilities will preserve this
consumer benefit for at least the next few years. After that, the
standard offer would continue for consumers unless others can convince
the PUCO to end it."                                                             
Without these settlements, Dominion and Columbia could have proposed an
elimination of their standard offer for residential customers at any
time. The Columbia settlement preserves the standard offer for
residential customers until at least April 2017, and the Dominion
settlement preserves the option for consumers until at least April 2016.
After that, the standard offer would continue for residential consumers
unless others request to end it, and the PUCO approves their request.
“The way residential consumers purchase natural gas is not going to
change anytime soon, so consumers shouldn’t worry about that,” said OCC
spokesman Marty Berkowitz. “What consumers should be concerned about now
is whether they’ve made the most economical choice for their purchase of
natural gas. Ohio consumers should continue to consider the Columbia and
Dominion standard offers, among other retail offers, when making a
choice for their natural gas.”                                                   
Currently, Dominion and Columbia determine the standard offer for their
natural gas through a competitive auction. The auction has been very
successful in lowering the price that many Ohioans pay for natural gas.
There are about 1.1 million residential consumers of Dominion and about
1.2 million for Columbia.                                                        
Other terms of the settlements include that OCC reserves the right to
oppose any future requests to eliminate the consumer option of the
standard offer.  And the settlements also require the public process of
a hearing regarding any future requests to end the standard offer. 
If the standard offer for natural gas were eliminated, customers would
be required to choose a retail supplier for their natural gas or be part
of a government aggregation program. Choosing a retail supplier would
mean that the consumer would have to consider the rates, terms and
conditions of complex retail offers and then sign a contract with the
supplier.                                                                        
The settlements that the PUCO approved today create new protections for
residential consumers. Click here for details of the consumer
protections, and other cost savings that OCC negotiated in the Columbia
settlement. OCC only signed the settlements on the issues affecting
residential consumers, and not for issues affecting non-residential
customers.                                                                       
For more information about either of these cases, and to download
today’s orders and the settlements, visit the official case dockets
at:                                                                              
Columbia Gas of Ohio case number: 12-2637-GA-EXM (
http://dis.puc.state.oh.us/CaseRecord.aspx?CaseNo=122637&x=12&y=15 )
Dominion East Ohio case number: 12-1842-GA-EXM (
http://dis.puc.state.oh.us/
CaseRecord.aspx?CaseNo=121842&x=18&y=18 ) 
About the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel                                  
The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), the residential
utility consumer advocate, represents the interests of 4.5 million
households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the
courts. The state agency also educates consumers about electric, natural
gas, telephone and water issues. For more information, please visit the
OCC website at www.pickocc.org.                                                  
Contact: Marty Berkowitz, 614-387-2962
berkowitz@occ.state.oh.us 
(kgt)NY