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Buford gas policy debated

ATLANTA -- Buford gas customers could soon get a break from a high deposit policy after a group of residents took complaints to the Public Service Commission.

"We are amazed at how much money Buford is making," said Hall County resident Lynn Everitt, a gas customer forced to pay a $300 deposit to the utility. The deposit is not returned unless the customer moves from the city.

She said the city's new community building is beautiful but shows a disparity with other governments struggling in the economy.

But even as public service commissioners encouraged a change to the four-year-old policy, Buford City Attorney Gregory Jay said city officials are already working on revisions.

Jay explained that the policy was implemented during the economic downturn, when the city faced a rise in uncollectable bills. While previous customers were grandfathered in and did not have to pay the sum, Jay said $300 covers two months of an average gas bill and helps keep other customers from paying more when laws say gas cannot be turned off during the winter, even for nonpayment.

Still, the city has been working with the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, along with 30 other municipalities, to create a uniform policy by the end of the year.

The municipal governments range from no deposit to $800, and some return the money after 12 to 24 months, if ratepayers have a good credit check or history of making payments, a staffer explained, adding that the recommendation is for a $150 deposit returned within 48 months.

At Thursday's committee hearing, commissioners praised Buford for its low gas rates but said the deposit policy is considerably more than other marketers.

"What we are doing is encouraging them to do the right thing, and if not we are going to encourage the Legislature (to change the law)," Commissioner Stan Wise said, who added that the commission has limited jurisdiction.

The city's gas utility serves areas of Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson and Barrow counties.

Comments

CD 1 year, 8 months ago

Hook the politicians up to a hose for an endless supply.

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R 1 year, 8 months ago

OK... who went out and hired a lobbyist?

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BuzzG 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't understand. Is there not competition in the gas market in Georgia? Cannot citizens move their gas business to a supplier with a more reasonable policy? Or does the City have a monopoly on gas? The article is not clear. If the city has a monopoly, the solution to this problem is clear. Return competition to the market. Get the government's hand out of the people's pocket.

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JimmyOrr 1 year, 8 months ago

BuzzG, the deregulation of the natural gas industry in Georgia was somewhat complicated (my opinion) when it came to creating the proverbial level playing field. It seems, if I understood correctly, that when deregulation was initiated that Atlanta Gas Light Co. could not install any new pipelines in areas in which there was no existing natural gas service. These areas were to be left open to natural gas companies with pipeline installation capabilities such as Buford Natural Gas. Install pipelines and install pipelines they did well beyond the incorporated city limits of Buford, GA. The one thing that I could never understand is why Buford Natural Gas did not have to offer customers served beyond the incorporated city limits of Buford the option to choose their natural gas suppliers such as GA Natural Gas, SCANA, Walton EMC Natural Gas, etc. Keep in mind that from day one of deregulation, Atlanta Gas Light had to allow the customers on their pipelines their (customers) choice of natural gas suppliers. I can understand Buford Natural Gas not offering their pipeline within the incorporated city limits of Buford to outside suppliers. They hold the franchise, so to speak, for natural gas provisioning within the City of Buford. However, from day one of deregulation I am of the opinion if the powers that be wanted a level playing field, they should have required Buford Natural gas to play by the same rules that Atlanta Gas Light was playing by and offer any new pipelines built outside the city limits of Buford to other gas suppliers to customers on those new pipelines. FYI, whether by an Act of the State legislature or whoever, Atlanta Gas Light is now permitted to build new pipelines in areas where there is no existing natural gas service. Yes, it would appear that Buford Natural Gas does have a monopoly outside the incorporated city limits of Buford, GA.

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 8 months ago

Deregulation was ONLY for former Atlanta Gas Light Customers. Buford was among many municipalities that were grandfathered in to run as monopolies. They have often applied to the PSC to expand even further beyond the city limits before and since deregulation and to my knowledge have been allowed to do so each time. Their pipes run into unincorporated Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson and Barrow counties, and yes, it is a monopoly and run like one. Outside the city limits your service is akin to that from a bull. That new 15 million dollar community center that I will never be able to use shore is purdy though.

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JimmyOrr 1 year, 8 months ago

Don_Coyote you are exactly right. Deregulation was aimed directly at the Atlanta Gas Light Company. I still contend that the playing field should have been leveled for any new pipelines built by Buford Natural Gas outside the incorporated city limits of Buford. This would have meant that Buford Natural Gas would have been in the mix as was AGL. Buford Natural Gas should have been required to offer their customers in the new serving areas the choice of natural gas suppliers. The municipalities being allowed to be "grandfathered" and operate as monopolities is/was akin to what bulls drop in pastures. There had to have been high politics involved in such a decision. If the PSC is worth spit they will remedy this situation.

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