Lubbock Wants to Get Into Natural Gas Business - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/12/05

Lubbock Wants to Get Into Natural Gas Business

On Thursday, the Lubbock City Council voted to explore the possibility of bringing competition to Lubbock in an effort to keep gas rates low. It was a sudden turn of events at the city council meeting.

"I have to commend Mayor Pro Tem Tom Martin on his idea because I think it is creative and innovative. I support it 100%," said Councilman Gary Boren.

Boren set the stage for Martin to introduce his plan of attack on rising gas costs. His idea is to see if Lubbock Power and Light, a city owed company that provides electricity to 70% of Lubbock, can also be a natural gas provider. A first-time choice for Lubbock citizens and competition for Atmos Energy.

"I look forward to be able to come back in about 60 days and see if there are some ways we can effect some real savings to our citizens from high natural gas bills," said Martin.

Martin says Atmos did no see this coming. But at the end of the presentation, Atmos Public Affairs Director Dan Alderson says the City of Lubbock may have a tough time pulling this off. "It is tough to put lines in where they already exist. Typically, when you have services running down an alley you increase customers costs for that infrastructure. If they (City of Lubbock) decides to get into the business, we will help them. Because they will see we will still be the service provider," said Alderson.

Mayor Marc McDougal appointed City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld, LP&L CEO Carroll McDonald, LP&L Chief Operating Officer Gary Zheng, Councilmen Tom Martin, Jim Gilbreath and Gary Boren to a subcommittee. The city will conduct a study on the feasibility of LP&L becoming a gas company as well. The report is expected in two months. Martin cited that San Antonio runs and operates its own electric and gas company.

In another vote, council voted six-to-one for Atmos to provide the last three years of it's financial records to the City of Lubbock.

Councilman Gary Boren says he wants Atmos to justify its past rate increases through the company's expenditures. The city staff will investigate all the financial records to see if the increases have been fair and reasonable. Last month, the city granted Atmos its rate increase of $1.21, only to avoid a legal battle in court that may have lead to higher costs to tax payers.

The council voted to pass it, with Councilwoman Linda DeLeon being the only one against the rate investigation. "I think by not being able to handle it in-house and having to hire accounting firms and lawyer firms that's enormous amount of money that I'm going to have to use of the taxpayers money and I don't think it's wise to do that," DeLeon said.

Atmos says through a "grip filing," they are allowed to ask for rate increases to reimburse the company for infrastructure costs. They say they will provide the information, and intend to cooperate with the city on this matter.

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