Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Business

February 24, 2011

Kokomo Gas, NIPSCO merger OK’d by consumer counselor

Consolidation could happen as early as spring

Kokomo — The consolidation of Kokomo Gas & Fuel into a larger sister company has received support from a state legal representative for consumers.

The merger of Kokomo’s main natural gas supplier into Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. awaits final approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission before it goes into effect.

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor and the Choice Program’s Natural Gas Marketers on Thursday reached an agreement with NIPSCO on the consolidation.

The OUCC legally represents consumers in IURC cases. The Choice Program is a NIPSCO initiative that allows its customers to buy from one of 12 other natural gas suppliers, then have NIPSCO deliver the gas through its system.

NIPSCO says it could begin the changes that will come with the merger as early as this spring, as long as the company receives IURC approval.

The agreement between the groups is a step closer toward a consolidation that loosely began in the 1990s, when NIPSCO managers began overseeing some of Kokomo Gas’ operations. Kokomo Gas in 2007 began using its big sister’s customer-service phone line, among other changes.

Kokomo Gas and NIPSCO are subsidiaries of NiSource. NIPSCO is also in the midst of absorbing fellow NiSource company Northern Indiana Fuel and Light in northeast Indiana.

Anthony Swinger, a spokesman for the OUCC, said a rate decrease that would happen with the merger helped earn the office’s approval.

Kokomo Gas had filed with the state to increase rates for its more than 40,000 customers if it stood alone. By merging with NIPSCO, the largest natural gas distributor in the state, bill amounts are expected to decrease an average of $1.51 per month for residential customers.

NIPSCO said the number of employees would not change with the consolidation.

• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.

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