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Kim Johnson ReportingA long-simmering feud between Questar and the state's utility watchdog group is heating up again. At issue is a program involving a little green sticker.
By 2008 Questar would like every furnace in Utah to have a green sticker certifying that a furnace is either equipped or upgraded to burn natural gas that is changing in composition. Furnaces made before 1998 would need to be recalibrated by technicians at a cost of between 30 and 50 dollars to individual consumers.
But the State Committee of Consumer Services has this advice.
Dee Jay Hammon, Chairman, State Comm. of Consumer Services: “Hold on for a while. We’ve still got another five years.”
Hammon is all for consumers getting their furnaces inspected, but he says his committee isn't convinced they need to spend the extra money to get a green sticker..
Dee Jay Hammon, Chairman, State Comm. of Consumer Services: "We're not saying it's not needed. We're not saying it is. The burden of proof to convince us that it is needed is on Questar."
And Hammon says Questar still hasn't made its point. A spokesman for Questar says he's shocked.
Chad Jones, Questar Spokesman: "We have a confused state agency. They don't understand what their own experts have recommended and it’s dangerous because they're confusing our customers. This (green sticker program) is necessary for safety reasons, or we wouldn't have undertaken this program."
Questar implemented the program five years ago to deal with the changing composition of natural gas being piped into the Wasatch Front. For years the gas in this area came from Wyoming. But with deregulation of the gas transportation industry, Questar is piping gas in from all over the country and the new mix of gas has less heat in it. The company says appliances that aren't properly calibrated to burn the new gas, could produce carbon monoxide.
Chad Jones, Questar Spokesman: Their own experts, as I've said, have provided testimony in PSC hearings that this is necessary, and the only, frankly, way to face this challenge."
But Hammon says his committee hasn't seen enough hard scientific evidence to convince them that's the case. What he says is critical is that customers have their appliances inspected to ensure they're properly ventilated.
The consumer committee is also critical of Questar for not closely monitoring the program. The utility says the program is more of a public awareness campaign that doesn't require strict monitoring. The whole issue is scheduled for another hearing before utility regulators in November.