GE: AGL to shut off 4,000 more customers : LUSENET : Y2K discussion group : One Thread

Matthew C. Quinn - Staff
Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Nearly a quarter of a million Georgia households are on Atlanta Gas Light Co.'s turnoff list, almost two months after expiration of a Public Service Commission-ordered moratorium on disconnections of natural gas service.

That's 16 percent of the 1.5 million homes and businesses in the state that purchase natural gas from unregulated marketers and are supplied through AGL's pipeline system.

Service will be turned off to about 4,000 customers this week as AGL continues disconnecting homes and businesses for nonpayment of bills to marketers.

AGL spokesman Nick Gold said most of the accounts on the disconnection list will never be actually turned off because customers will pay their bills or make payment arrangement with marketers. A large part of the 240,000 overdue accounts date from last winter, when home heating bills skyrocketed.

When the PSC's three-month moratorium expired April 2, marketers submitted about 150,000 accounts to be disconnected for nonpayment.

The number is higher now because marketers continually add new accounts to the shutoff list, Gold said.

About 31,000 accounts have been shut off since the moratorium ended and about 10,000 of those have been turned back on after accounts were settled, Gold said.

The utility is able to shut off only 1,300 customers daily because manpower has to be available to turn accounts back on when payments are made, Gold said. Shutoffs are usually carried out four days a week for a total of 5,200.

Every year, a certain number of natural gas customers allow their service to be turned off because they do not plan to use the fuel during warm weather. Many pay overdue balances before the start of the following winter, so service can be restored.

Service was turned off to about 18,000 accounts in April 2000, said Gold. Comparisons to this year are difficult because the number built up during the PSC's three-month moratorium, but the number appears to be significantly higher this year because of staggering bills many had trouble paying.

At least one major marketer did not shut off customers for nonpayment last year. Shell Energy has said it held off until last month while the company's billing problems were being fixed.

The Public Service Commission has received complaints from 87 consumers who said their service was disconnected in error, said Deborah Flanagan, executive director. She said marketers appear to be complying with PSC rules on shutoffs. Under PSC rules, service can be disconnected only with five days' notice, when payments are 45 days late, when gas marketers have made good faith efforts to contact customers and when marketers are available on disconnection dates to receive payment. Skyrocketing wholesale gas prices and unusually cold weather saw bills that doubled, or worse, for many consumers this year. Many consumers blamed the state's 1997 natural gas deregulation law that shifted gas sales to unregulated marketers.

Similar price spikes were reported by utilities exempted from the law. About 225,000 homes and businesses receive gas from investor-owned utility United Cities.

The Atlantic Journal Constitution

-- Anonymous, May 30, 2001

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