Settlement delayed again between state, gas utility

Saturday, May 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state Corporation Commission has delayed a final vote on a settlement with Oklahoma Natural Gas over allegations the gas utility overcharged customers.

Friday's delay came three days after commissioners voted 2-1 to accept the settlement that would have reduced residential gas bills by $35 over a three-year period. Since then, the agreement has been revised again and the commission's lone dissenter said he can agree with the settlement now.

``This document is quite different from the other document,'' Commissioner Bob Anthony said.

He said he's more confident than he was Tuesday that consumers will benefit from the $34 million that ONG is supposed to repay. Anthony had criticized the earlier deal because it gave consumers credit on gas bills instead of direct refunds.

The latest settlement also deletes a sentence that would have restrained the commission from acting in five earlier ONG gas buying contracts.

The Corporation Commission will take up the matter again Tuesday.

``We're eager to go forward with it and eager to see the benefits flow through to consumers,'' ONG spokesman Don Sherry said.

The settlement is intended to resolve three cases involving ONG. In the first, the gas utility is accused of overcharging consumers by $45 million after it made a deal with Dynamic Energy.

In the second case, commissioners found ONG wasn't prudent in buying gas for the 2000-2001 winter and told the company it couldn't pass on almost $35 million in costs to consumers. Anthony said this week he thinks ONG ran up as much as $206 million in overcharges in the two cases.

The third issue involves the refusal by ONEOK, ONG's parent company, to release sales records that the commission had requested.