(02/16/2007)
Will the Public Service Commission put an end to a 22-year-old problem with gas companies operating in Clay County owned by Pennsylvania resident John Habjan?

Clay County residents pleaded with the PSC yesterday to take action against Habjan, the owner of three gas companies.

The residents claim Habjan's companies are not providing adequate service or no service at all to nearly half of Clay County.

The PSC issued a bench decision Thursday that places the three Clay County gas companies into receivership. A petition will have to be filed in Clay County Circuit Court.

Clay County Commissioner Fran King, who has been outraged about hundreds of families trying to survive in their cold houses without heat, was the first to testify.

King alleged that Wagner, Beechy and Valley Gas Companies have followed bad practices. "I know gas companies are going to have leaks. That is just evident, but he (Habjan) does not maintain the lines. They have not been maintained."

King said last week she received more than 100 phone calls when the temperatures dropped into the single digits.

Businesses and schools have been closed.

King said she tried to reach the owner, "I could get no one to answer the 24-hour number. I called and I called and I called."

State Consumer Advocate Billy Jack Gregg says the problems the county is experiencing with the companies are not new.

"No citizen of West Virginia should have to put up with what the citizens of Clay County have had to endure, not only this winter but for the past 22-years," he said.

Lawyer's for the company's owner testified there haven't been any serious problems with any of the three gas companies in the last five years and this cold spell is the first sign of serious problems.

Gregg responded that the past few winters have been unusually mild and this is the third time in the last 25 years the residents of Clay County has petitioned the PSC regarding a need for receivership.

King said citizens of the county can no longer be placed in such a situation.


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