PUCO Threatens to Shut Down Natural Gas Company

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has ordered a natural gas company based in Niles that serves more than 100 customers in northwestern Trumbull County to either comply with Ohio regulations or face termination of its service.

According to an order handed down Wednesday by the PUCO, One Source Energy LLC must pay a $25,000 penalty and comply with earlier findings of violations by Aug. 9 or have their supply of natural gas turned off.

Papers filed with the PUCO say that in September 2017, the company began providing local distribution to 19 natural gas customers without the commission’s approval. The company also declined to provide necessary financial information, while two subsequent investigations found violations related to pipeline safety.

As a result, the PUCO staff “stated it had serious concerns regarding One Source’s capability of operating a natural gas company,” according to the order filed July 31. The staff recommended that the commission deny the company’s application for certification and order it to “relinquish or sell its distribution assets to another party with the capability of properly operating a natural gas company.”

The staff also recommended to the commission that it set a deadline for One Source’s customers to find alternative service and direct One Source to “cease and desist providing gas service.”

A hearing on the matter was held on April 8 before PUCO, and no representatives from One Source Energy showed, according to papers.

The commission has directed Dominion Energy Ohio to cease natural gas transportation service to One Source Energy on Sept. 6, or show cause why the service should not cease, according to the order.

A call to One Source Energy was not returned.

“They have been unresponsive and uncooperative,” said PUCO spokesman Matt Schilling. He said although the commission ordered the company to cease enrolling new customers, the company continued to do so.

“They’re bad actors,” he said.

Schilling said it is highly unusual for the PUCO to take such steps against a utility. Other than a similar case two years ago, the commission hasn’t had to take action like this in 30 years, Schilling said.

He said the order could affect 118 customers in Southington Township.

On Wednesday, the PUCO notified One Source’s customers that it has “failed to demonstrate it has the managerial, technical and financial resources necessary to safely operate a natural gas utility.”

The letter stated that unless One Source sells its assets or complies with the PUCO, natural gas service “is likely to be shut off Sept. 6, 2019. It is recommended you explore alternative heating sources.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.