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Peachtree Looks for Options as White Knight Fades
It will be a busy day for Georgia’s gas industry today as twoseparate meetings are being held which promise to go a long way indetermining the fate of the bankrupt Peachtree Natural Gas’ 170,000customers.
A brief bankruptcy court hearing was held yesterday in whichPeachtree agreed to pay Atlanta Gas Light more than $1.75 million inexchange for permission to keep serving customers until Nov. 20. Thisagreement is similar to two previous agreements between the parties(see Daily GPI, Nov. 1) and allowsPeachtree to stay afloat while a final solution to the situation isfound.
Some big steps toward that final solution are scheduled to bemade today. First on the agenda is another bankruptcy court hearingfor Peachtree, where the court intends to rule on a motion filed byPeachtree asking for permission to sell its customers to anothermarketer. Secondly, The GPSC is holding an administrative meetingtoday and intends to decide on whether to accept or dismiss amotion filed by the Scana Corp., asking for a reconsideration ofShell Energy Service’s appointment as interim pooler.
At the heart of the bankruptcy court hearing is Peachtree’sdesire to sell its customers. An RFP was held and several responseswere being considered, a source said. All bids were due as of 2p.m. yesterday. Deborah Latham, Peachtree’s CEO, said she had notreviewed the responses by the time this article went to press.
The Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC), however, has filedits own motion at the court, objecting to the sale request unlessfour provisions are made. These provisions were not included inPeachtree’s motion. According to the GPSC, the marketer thatpurchases Peachtree’s customers should:
Ãº promptly notify customers of the sale
Ãº notify the acquired customers of its rates, terms andconditions of service
Ãº include a statement informing customers that they still havethe right to switch marketers
Ãº not charge the customers a change of service fee
“These are all common sense things,” said an attorney for theGPSC. “We’re not opposed to Peachtree selling its customers. Ourproblem is that their motion did not include these things.Hopefully, Both Peachtree and the judge [Hon. Robert Brizendine]won’t have a problem with this.”
Latham agreed. “They basically were ensuring an orderlytransition, and I whole-heartedly agree. The GPSC’s objection won’tbe a problem.”
Peachtree filed the motion to sell after its intended merger toCoServ, a Texas-based electric cooperative, fell apart last week.The two had entered into a letter of intent to merge, but CoServnever got past the due diligence stage.
If the court denies the motion to sell the customers and Peachtreedefaults, Shell Energy Services would assume the responsibility ofsupplying gas to the customers. Shell was awarded the right when itwas selected to be the state’s interim pooler last week (see DailyGPI, Nov. 5).
However, in another late development, Scana filed a motion ofreconsideration last Friday afternoon at the GPSC, asking theCommission to readdress the appointment of Shell. The GPSC isholding an administrative session today to decide if thereconsideration will be granted.
Scana is concerned that Shell is gaining an unfair advantage inthe marketplace because of the way the interim pooler decision wasmade. “We want the laws to make the interim pooler more reflectiveof its name: interim,” said a Scana spokesman. “The way it is setup now, customers assigned to an interim pooler will not berandomly assigned to other marketers until after the heatingseason. The likelihood of a customer switch after several months isseverely diminished. So, we’re asking the GPSC to accelerate therandom assignment schedule from after the heating season to 30 daysfrom when they are appointed to Shell.”
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