Pilot Program Seeks to Expand Columbia’s Reach

Columbia-Gas-Ambit-Energy_598x199Power Source

By Michael Sanserino

Natural gas prices might have recovered from their bottom in 2012, but gas customers in Pennsylvania are still paying about half what they were five years ago.

Meanwhile, fewer than 50 percent of the state’s citizens have access to residential natural gas service, and the state’s utilities are trying to close that gap.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, which serves more than 400,000 customers in Western Pennsylvania and the Greater York area, has launched a pilot program aimed at expanding its service to residents in those service areas. The program was approved by Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission late last month.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is a subsidiary of Indiana-based NiSource.

Under the pilot program, customers who add a new gas line to their property have the option to pay for the cost of new installation with a surcharge added to their monthly bill. Previously, potential new customers were faced with the sticker shock of an upfront charge for infrastructure work.

“This gives people another option to have gas service extended to them,” said Russell Bedell, a spokesman for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. “In the past, they had to do an upfront payment. We think this is a way we can get gas to more people.”

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