(02/28/2009)
NiSource, the parent company of Charleston-based Columbia Natural Gas Transmission Corp. is laying off 95 workers in Charleston.

They also announced another 75 Columbia Gas workers across West Virginia will also lose their jobs, a total of 165 jobs.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said these are among the "best jobs" in the Mountain State.

Affected is a wide range of employees, including engineers, project managers, information technicians, field operators and gas control managers.

Christopher Helms, president of Houston-based NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, Columbia's parent company, said "We need to take these steps to be more efficient, to enhance the competitiveness of our company and to respond to current economic conditions."

NiSource is laying off 380 workers across 16 states.

NiSource's announcement comes a day after Chesapeake Energy eliminated 215 jobs in Charleston.

Chesapeake blamed the decision, in part, on a multi-million-dollar Roane County jury verdict against the company and NiSource in a gas royalties' case, and the state Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal.

A Roane jury awarded $405 million in royalties and punitive damages to landowners who were allegedly cheated.

NiSource, unlike Chesapeake, said the jury verdict and state Supreme Court ruling had nothing to do with the company's decision to eliminate jobs in West Virginia, blaming the economic downturn.

NiSource officials had criticized the Roane County verdict, predicting it could have a chilling effect on natural gas development in West Virginia, according to a 2007 news release.

Last October, NiSource and Chesapeake agreed to pay $380 million to the landowners and drop their appeals as part of a settlement.


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