Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Questar Lawsuit

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Questar Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Supreme Court has taken under advisement arguments in a suit challenging the Questar Gas Co. practice of charging customers $5 million a year for removal of excess carbon dioxide from natural gas.

The Utah Committee of Consumers Services contends the Public Service Commission erred in August 2000 when it gave Questar permission to raise rates for four years to cover the gas-processing costs.

The idea that Questar Gas is an independent public utility that defends its own interests and always looks out for its customers interests is wrong, Assistant Utah Attorney General Reed Warnick, representing the consumer services committee, argued Wednesday before the court.

"Questar Gas is a utility body without a head," Warnick said.

The utility is controlled by Questar Corp.'s management group, which also controls Questar Pipeline and decided to take the lower quality gas onto the pipeline to the detriment of Questar Gas and its customers, he said.

The committee believes the producers of the gas or Questar Pipeline should pay to process the gas, not Questar Gas customers.

Warnick contended that Questar never established it acted prudently when it decided to build the plant.

The committee has contended that federal regulators consistently have ruled that the companies producing such gas should pay the cost of cleaning it up.

Questar's attorney argued that federal law required it to take the gas onto its system.

The company's management was unwilling to gamble with customer safety while it waited for federal regulators to rule in what potentially could have been a "long, knockdown, drag-out" fight, Questar attorney Gary Sackett said.

"There was a problem. It was solved and there were costs involved," Sackett said. "What was important was the result."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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