PSC asks if utility has abandoned customers

The state Public Service Commission announced Friday that it is investigating whether Elam Utility Co. is abandoning its natural gas operations in Morgan County.

The PSC announced earlier this week that the utility's 410 customers in Morgan County might be without natural gas service later this month because the utility has failed to pay to its supplier of gas.

The PSC plans to hold a meeting to discuss the issue with customers at 6 p.m. Thursday at Morehead State University-West Liberty.

The PSC has ordered leaders of Elam Utility to appear at a hearing at 10 a.m. Friday at the PSC offices in Frankfort to present evidence on issues including its ability to resolve its debt to Columbia Gas Transmission Co. The latter has told the PSC that it is owed $688,000 by Elam, which draws natural gas from Columbia's lines. Under their arrangement, Elam is then to purchase natural gas from third-party providers, which add that amount of natural gas back to Columbia's lines.

Wilma Ison of Elam Utility said she is negotiating to have the city of West Liberty buy the company's natural gas operations in Morgan County.

PSC spokesman Andrew Melnykovych said the commission has not received an application for any transfer of control and also has not been told by Columbia that it has any assurance of payment that would prevent the July 26 cutoff.

Elam's 40 customers in Wolfe County are not affected.

Next week's hearing will also address whether Elam should be placed under the control of a court-appointed receiver.

The PSC said in the statement that state law authorizes it to seek a court order to have a receiver appointed to operate a utility it deems abandoned in the best interest of the customers.

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