ONEOK seeks dismissal of contempt citation, fines

Saturday, August 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The parent of the state's largest natural gas utility is seeking to dismiss a contempt citation filed against the company for refusing to hand over records after last winter's gas price jump.

Tulsa-based ONEOK Inc. filed a petition with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday asking the court to dismiss the citation and fines imposed by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed an additional complaint this week after ONEOK failed to provide documents requested by state regulators on the gas-selling practices of its unregulated marketing and storage affiliates.

The commission started investigating the company after many Oklahoma Natural Gas customers saw their heating bills more than double last winter. ONG's gas costs, which are passed on to consumers, rose to more than $10 per thousand cubic feet at one point.

Regulators want to review the prices that the company's affiliate, ONEOK Energy Marketing and Trading, charged other companies to see if ONG paid too much for its winter gas supply. ONG purchased about 60 percent of its winter supply from OEMT.

Earlier this month, the commission found ONEOK, ONEOK Gas Storage and OEMT in contempt for not releasing requested information. It levied the maximum fine of $500 a day against each company.

In its appeal, ONEOK claims the commission has no jurisdiction over OEMT and ONEOK Gas Storage.

It also says ONEOK's due process rights were violated when the company was denied the opportunity to present evidence to support its position in a hearing before the administrative law judge. The appeal says that was ``in violation of constitutional and statutory law and the commission's own rules.''

ONEOK said it will seek to stay the commission's contempt order while the matter is before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

``It is necessary for us to file this appeal in order to protect our rights,'' said David Kyle, ONEOK chairman and chief executive officer. ``We have legitimate disagreement as to the extent of the commission's jurisdiction, but remain hopeful that a solution will be found.''