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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

PUCO orders Columbia to run tiny gas supplier

COLUMBUS - State regulators yesterday ordered Columbia Gas of Ohio to operate the defunct West Millgrove Gas Co., the tiny southeastern Wood County natural-gas company that filed last month for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The order by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio directs Columbia Gas to supply natural gas to the 124 customers of West Millgrove until a new owner can be found or until the customers find alternative fuel sources.

Gina Thompson, a Columbia Gas spokesman, said the utility is serving the town's customers.

``It's not a problem,'' she said. ``We'll make the best of it and do what's right for the customers until something more permanent comes into place.''

Columbia Gas has transmission lines in the West Millgrove area and can easily provide service, she said.

The regulators acted because they determined that, without such emergency action, the bankrupt company's customers could have been without natural gas by today.

Immediately after the bankruptcy filing Judge Richard Speer of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo held an emergency hearing and authorized a trustee to operate the gas company for 45 days while a buyer was sought. So far, no buyer has been found.

In its bankruptcy petition, the West Millgrove company listed assets of $38,870 and liabilities of $971,399, more than $750,000 of which was owed to Columbia Gas Transmission Corp.

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