PUCO orders gas utility to shut down by Sept. 6

SOUTHINGTON — The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has ordered the provider of natural gas to 118 customers in the township to shut down by Sept. 6.

The commission’s ruling affirms a directive from Tuesday that ordered Niles-based One Source Energy to file by Friday a plan detailing how it would safely abandon the system by the deadline and how the company would communicate what’s happening with customers.

One Source met Friday’s deadline, but admits it’s unlikely to make the Sept. 6 deadline because of the time needed to secure a sale, get a natural gas source and switch customers over to the new provider, according to a letter filed with the commission. It’s asked for an extended deadline.

If a sale doesn’t happen, the company will shut off and lock customers’ meters Sept. 3 to 5 and then coordinate with Dominion East Ohio to stop gas flowing into the lines, according to the closure plan.

The company has a per customer offer on the table that is being reviewed by both parties, the letter states. It has also met with Utility Pipeline in Canton and Gas Natural Inc. in Cleveland to start the process of finding a regulated buyer for One Source Energy. The potential buyer wasn’t named in the letter.

The commission Thursday voted to issue the stop work order. It has not responded to the request for more time.

In addition, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has filed an injunction in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to compel One Source to comply with the commission’s order.

“The commission remains concerned about One Source’s noncompliance with statutes, the state of its finances and its managerial capability,” said commission Chairman Sam Randazzo. “A sale and transfer of One Source’s system and customers to a gas utility in good standing could be beneficial to the customers that are currently relying on One Source.”

According to the commission, the company filed an application to operate and for tariff approval in May 2016.

The commission in September 2017 reported the company was providing gas to about 19 customers without commission permission and its application was incomplete. The company also did not provide financial information after repeated requests, failed to acknowledge or correct alleged violations from two safety inspections and failed to appear at commission hearings.

It had until Aug. 9 to pay a $25,000 fine and file documents to prove to the commission it had “adequate managerial, technical and financial capability” to provide the utility as well as financial assurances well enough to protect customers, according to a previous commission order.

It paid the fine and filed a number of documents with the commission by the deadline, but after review, the commission staff believed the company still had not proved it was fit to run the utility.