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News Release
Commission Lacks Authority to Okay Gas Pipeline Agreement
October 8, 2002 (2002 - 029)
Contacts:  Roy Hemmingway, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Lee Beyer, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR – The Oregon Public Utility Commission has denied a territory allocation request. The request included a contract between Northwest Natural Gas and Coos County for operating a proposed pipeline. The Commission concluded the application couldn’t be approved using the territory allocation statutes because no territory is changing ownership at this time. The Commission’s legal review addressed only the territorial application issue; it did not get into the particulars of the contract.
"While we are supportive of this project, our hands are tied by the law," Commissioner Lee Beyer said. "The legislature has not allowed us the discretion to approve an application for territory allocation without an actual allocation of an area with boundaries."
The Commission said the contract between Northwest Natural and Coos County only spells out a procedure under which future customers might be allocated to Coos County. There are no assurances that any territory or customers will actually be allocated to Coos County.
The purpose of the territory allocation statutes is to prevent and eliminate duplication of utility facilities, promote economic development use and development, and maintain safe operation of service while providing adequate and reasonable service.
The application is part of an economic development project for a natural gas pipeline to be built from the Williams Pipeline Corporation’s lateral to serve Coos Bay, Myrtle Point and Coquille. Coos County voters approved a $27 million bond measure in 1999 to finance the County’s portion of this project.
On May 31, 2000, the Commission approved Northwest Natural’s application for exclusive rights to provide natural gas to portions of Coos County. The territory does not include the city of Bandon.