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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

Columbia Gas to charge monthly riser-repair fee

Starting May 1, Columbia Gas of Ohio will be allowed to charge customers a monthly fee, probably about 30 cents, through 2011 to cover replacement or repair of pipes rising from the ground and connection of service lines to in-home gas meters.

However, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio yesterday also told Columbia Gas to use a more cost-effective way to replace defective gas risers, which could shave up to $15 million off the program s cost.

Concerned about public safety, in 2007 the PUCO ordered Columbia Gas to look at defective gas risers and take over fixing or replacing them. About 400,000 plastic risers, installed mainly in the 1980s in the utility s territory, were believed to be prone to leakage or failure.

A plan to replace them was approved in July but how to pay for it was delayed. Columbia Gas said the plan would cost $200 million and had asked to charge its 1.4 million customers 31 cents a month for three years to pay for it. The PUCO has yet to approve the 31-cent fee but is expected to do so.

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