Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania CEO Gary J. Robinson praised aproposal by Pennsylvania’s governor to eliminate the 5% grossreceipts tax levied on the state’s residential gas users.

“As a leading proponent of the deregulation of the natural-gasindustry in Pennsylvania, we believe that Gov. [Tom] Ridge’sproposal is a major step toward giving our customers the economicdemocracy they want,” Robinson said. “Elimination of the grossreceipts tax will remove one of the major obstacles to the passageof a deregulation bill that will increase competition, leading to ahost of new energy services and pricing options for commonwealthresidents.”

If Pennsylvania’s gas industry is deregulated, more independentgas marketers will enter the marketplace, Robinson said. ColumbiaGas of Pennsylvania was the first gas utility in Pennsylvania tooffer supplier choice to its customers. About 280,000 of thecompany’s 382,000 Pennsylvania customers are eligible to selecttheir own supplier. About 58,000 customers are enrolled thiswinter. Customers who participated last winter shaved an average of8.5% off their monthly heating bills.

Fourteen gas suppliers have been approved to make offers to thecompany’s customers. Suppliers are not forced to purchase theColumbia’s unused pipeline capacity. Instead, Columbia letsmarketers deliver their gas through alternative pipelinearrangements.

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