Ohio SC rules in gas line case

Chris Rizo Dec. 29, 2009, 2:20pm

Robert Cupp

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline)-An Ohio utility is responsible for ensuring that consumers' natural gas lines are safe, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a unanimous ruling, the state's high court upheld a regulatory decision that Columbia Gas of Ohio Inc. is responsible for fixing or replacing customers' potentially dangerous natural gas lines.

Canonsburg, Pa.-based Utility Service Partners Inc. filed a lawsuit challenging a ruling last year by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that companies are responsible for their gas service lines.

The lawsuit was filed after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in April 2008 handed Columbia Gas the exclusive authority to maintain lines that connect underground gas service to homes or businesses.

At the time of the April 2008 decision, Utility Service Partners had warranties on more than 100,000 Columbia customers' service lines.

The company claimed that state regulators lacked the authority to solely charge Columbia Gas with fixing or replacing hazardous lines.
The high court said the gas utility itself should maintain the risers.

The Supreme Court decision was written by Justice Robert Cupp. He also wrote that state law does give the Public Utilities Commission the power to set such rules.

"Service lines carry natural gas, and natural gas is dangerous unless it is handled properly," Cupp wrote for the court. "Thus, the order, in seeking to improve the regulation of pipelines that prevent the escape of a dangerous substance, had a clear tie to public safety."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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