Regulators Wrong

September 19, 2003  -- Posted at 7:34 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  --The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that state regulators were wrong to adopt a special program in 2001 that restored natural gas service to people who couldn't pay their bills.

About 30-thousand customers were cut off after severe cold that accompanied the ice storms in 2000.

The high court wants to make sure natural-gas customers who lose service for not paying their bill don't get a special break the next time around. The decision reversed a ruling by the state Court of Appeals that upheld the program in a lawsuit brought by Arkansas Gas Consumers Incorporated, a group of business customers.

The court cited a law approved this year by the Legislature that specifically gives the Public Service Commission authority to assure that retail customers won't be cut off due to bad weather. The law does not mention natural gas.

The ruling affects future action, not customers who were cut off previously.

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