ONEOK faces new contempt allegation

Wednesday, August 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla (AP) _ The parent of Oklahoma's largest natural gas utility faces a new contempt complaint for refusing to hand over records in an investigation into last winter's gas price jump.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed the complaint this week against Tulsa-based ONEOK Inc.

The company 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.

ONEOK refused to release the information. It has said the commission's authority doesn't extend to its unregulated affiliates.

``Everything related to the transaction between ONG and its affiliate has been fully disclosed,'' said ONG spokesman Don Sherry. ``But what OEMT was doing in other states simply has no bearing on what consumers paid for gas in Oklahoma last winter.''

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.

The new complaint seeks gas storage records, gas injection schedules and financial statements.

``The Corporation Commission's general counsel sent us a letter informing us that ONEOK had failed to comply with their order and asked us to take a look at it,'' said Cece Coleman, assistant attorney general.

Coleman said ONEOK will have the chance to explain to a commission administrative law judge on Sept. 5 why it did not comply with the order.

Sherry said ONEOK has until Sept. 10 to appeal the first contempt action and is still considering its legal options.