Gas suppliers: Cities’ lawsuit ‘frivolous’
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Attorneys for the two natural gas suppliers that were sued for allegedly charging too much for gas at high elevation have called the suit “vexatious, harassing and frivolous.” Kinder Morgan and Rocky Mountain Natural Gas made the characterizations in the text of a motion they filed in 9th District Court Thursday. The motion requests that the 9th District Court dismiss the suit, filed by the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs on June 3, on the grounds that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction on the matter, not the courts. Aspen city attorney John Worcester has said that the utilities commission is well aware of the issue and has never taken action.”Our argument is that they run in tandem – the PUC has a responsibility and the courts have another one,” Worcester said. “What Kinder Morgan says is that they’re exempt from the Consumer Protection Act, because the PUC has rate-making authority. We’re not challenging that.”But the city feels that there are two different issues at hand – the utilities commission may approve the gas company’s rate structures, but the courts have the ability to uphold fair business practices under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said he was expecting the motion to be filed.”As with any suit, our action is based on what’s in front of us,” he said. Neither of the natural gas companies’ Denver attorneys, Michael L. Beatty and Alvin J. Meiklejohn, Jr., returned phone calls Monday seeking comment on the motion. The motion also requests that the plaintiffs pay attorney fees and other costs. The class-action lawsuit alleges that Kinder Morgan and Rocky Mountain Natural Gas have been charging too much for natural gas.It says that because the gas companies failed to compensate for a decrease in air pressure at higher elevations – high elevation naturally decreases the density of the gas – the less-dense gas “had significantly lower heating content.”At Aspen’s elevation, the suit claims, natural gas contains at least 23 percent less heating value than it would at sea level.As a result, the suit claims that the two gas companies “knowingly, deceptively and falsely fail to apply the required conversion factor when billing for the natural gas they have sold and continue to sell.”Aspen Times reporter Naomi Havlen contributed to this story. Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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