Gas companies told to return overpayment to qualifying patrons

Two natural gas companies serving Marion County, responding to an order from the Kansas Corporation Commission, have announced credit programs that could help limited-income families pay their natural gas bills.

Greeley Gas Co. and Kansas Gas Service are working in cooperation with the Kansas Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to offer one-time credits of up to $350 and $495, respectively, for households that qualify.

A recent KCC order governs the distribution of refunds for overcharges of Kansas ad valoreum taxes paid to natural gas producers from 1983 to 1988. The order requires the refunds to be distributed to qualified residential natural gas customers who have incomes below 300 percent of the federal poverty level and who received natural gas services any time from Nov. 1, 2000, and March 31, 2001.

According to 2001 federal poverty guidelines, a family of four living on $52,950 could qualify. The refund distribution will be made in the form of a credit to the customer’s natural gas account.

KGS said their customers are not eligible for this account credit if during the 2000-01 heating season they received more than a $495 benefit from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program administered by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services, or the Gas Assistance Program administered by the American Red Cross.

Greeley Gas, meanwhile, said customers having a LIEAP benefit of less than $350 during the past heating season may apply to receive a credit for the difference between $350 and the amount of the LIEAP benefit received.

Customers of both companies will soon be receiving flyers explaining the program.

Greeley Gas did not report the amount of money it plans to distribute, but KGS said it has about $4.5 million to distribute and may receive up to $23 million, depending on results of appeals associated with the KCC’s distribution order.

“We hope these credits will alleviate some of the pressure customers are feeling to get their bills caught up,” said Steve Johnson, KGS executive director for corporate relations. “Many customers who ordinarily stay current were caught this year by increased prices, and this program will go a long way to help.”

Customers f must apply for the credits. All Greeley customers will be mailed an application for the program as an insert to their August natural gas bill.

Greeley reports that “a limited amount of funds are available and customers will be assisted on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.”

Earlier this month, Greeley Gas and the Kansas Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross created a formal relationship called the Greeley Energy Assistance Program.

The role of the Red Cross for both companies will be to verify income levels and notify the respective companies so that customer accounts can be credited.

“The American Red Cross is happy to participate in the program,” said Tina Labellarte, chief executive officer of the Kansas Capital Area Chapter. “We will maintain confidentiality on behalf of those who apply for the credits, and are organized to process the applications.”

Labellarte also praised the KCC for its actions.

“I appreciate the leadership of the KCC, which established a Natural Gas Price Task Force a year ago in anticipation of the extreme cold weather and the increased price of natural gas,” she said.

Jim Bartling, manager of public affairs for Greeley Gas, said he expected funds to provide credit to about 6,000 households initially and that more households could benefit in coming months when additional funds become available.

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