Despite impending investigation into owner, Bangor Gas says it’s ‘business as usual’

Posted Dec. 11, 2013, at 4:51 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The investigation of Bangor Gas Co.’s parent company will have no impact on operations in Maine, according to the Bangor company’s manager.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio last month announced it would launch an investigative audit of Mentor, Ohio-based Gas Natural Inc. for alleged corporate and financial mismanagement at the company and its regulated utilities in Ohio.

Gas Natural owns Energy West, which is Bangor Gas’ parent company. It is a holding company for regulated utilities that deliver natural gas to approximately 69,000 customers in Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, according to its 2012 annual report.

Jerry Livengood, general manager of Bangor Gas, said in an email to the Bangor Daily News that the investigation will not have an impact on Bangor Gas’ local operations.

“It is business as usual here in Maine,” Livengood said.

To highlight his point, Livengood said Bangor Gas this month completed a review of its gas purchase activities for 2011 and 2012 with the Maine Public Utilities Commission “with no deficiencies.”

“Bangor Gas is focused on completing our 2013 new construction projects. We are looking forward to 2014 and our commitment to continue to expand the availability of natural gas service throughout the greater Bangor area,” he said.

The Ohio regulators are launching the investigation after unveiling what they say are a number of examples of mismanagement at Gas Natural and its Ohio subsidiaries, including “an unawareness and negligence of the senior management … to their managerial and fiduciary duties and responsibilities;” a failure to enforce internal controls, including an appropriate separation between regulated and nonregulated subsidiary companies; and a failure to show its gas purchasing practices and procedures “were fair, just and reasonable or that they resulted in minimum gas prices.”

A spokesman for the Ohio commission said its audit focused on the Ohio utilities, but that “it is possible that some of the practices between the Maine’s regulated utility and the unregulated affiliates were treated in the same fashion.”

Livengood said he was “confident” the management team in Ohio “will navigate this matter to a positive outcome with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.”

Livengood’s assurances don’t appease Tim Schneider, Maine’s public advocate.

“We are very concerned about the revelations in the Ohio PUC report, which paint a picture of a deeply dysfunctional senior management at Gas Natural and its subsidiaries,” Schneider said in an email to the BDN. “We will be closely following the broader scale investigation of Gas Natural Inc. that the Ohio Commission has undertaken.”

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