Public Utilities Commission of Ohio extends shutdown of Mentor gas company after customer complaints

Posted at 10:04 PM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 22:12:31-05

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has voted to extend the shut off date for Ohio Rural Natural Gas Co-Op (ORNG) to April 17 citing concerns from customers, according to PUCO documents

The vote was made during the PUCO commission meeting, held in Columbus.

Prior to Thursday's meeting, ORNG was ordered to cease all operations by March 1 after a series of investigations dating back to early 2015 where the company received more than 30 safety violations, according to documents

Related: Dominion Gas to install new gas lines in Mentor neighborhood after gas company ordered to shut down

Today, PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque said it's the state's priority to ensure public safety. However, he noted, the original shut down date is before the end of the winter heating season.

"While we want to ensure total safety of Ohio’s gas pipeline systems, we do not want to create a situation where Ohioans are without an alternative to heat their homes during the winter," Haque said. "We received this feedback from ORNG’s customers, and their concerns are being taken seriously by the Commission.

Haque also discussed a finding they PUCO made after their January 18 decision to shut the company down. Haque said ORNG was not properly staffing emergency responders to respond to safety concerns called in by ORNG’s customers. 

Once ORNG was notified by the state about the shortage of staff, the natural gas company complied and retained emergency responders.

"But a customer of ORNG must ask themselves whether ORNG would have retained these emergency responders if the PUCO had not discovered this lapse by ORNG to provide the most basic system safety measure to ORNG’s customers," Haque commented. 

During Haque's conclusion, he expressed his concern with ORNG and had advice for its customers. 

"I fully understand the frustration of ORNG’s customers, especially the feeling that they have wasted money by converting to natural gas and becoming ORNG customers. It is important for the ORNG customers to recognize that ORNG claims it is not a public utility, but a cooperative in which the customers own the system. If you are upset about the status of the system, about expending money on converting to natural gas and possibly having wasted that investment, then the Commission encourages you to stand up and take your rightful place as an owner of the system and demand that you, your neighbors, your community, be transferred to a more responsible utility system operator," Haque said.

ORNG customers will have until April 17 to find alternative service.

Chairman Haque Comments RE Ohio Rural Natural Gas by Kaylyn Renee on Scribd