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.)
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 email@example.com