Columbia Gas makes $2.1 million available for payment-troubled customers

Media Release from Columbia Gas:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Columbia Gas of Ohio announced today that it has created a $2.1 million emergency assistance fund to help customers who are having difficulty paying their heating bills, but who don't qualify for existing energy assistance programs.

The company is making available money that it received in payments from an interstate pipeline supplier in an effort to assist families harmed financially by the recession and layoffs. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) in December approved a request, developed jointly by the
company, the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and PUCO staff, to create the fund.

These new funds will be available for utility bill payment assistance to Columbia Gas of Ohio customers with incomes between 175% and 200% of federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, the household income could be up to $42,400 per year.

"Our company is pleased to be able to offer some extra payment assistance during this winter heating season," said Columbia Gas of Ohio President Jack Partridge. "We understand that current economic conditions, with job cuts being announced almost daily, are making it tough on people, even those who don't qualify for traditional energy assistance programs."

The emergency assistance fund will be administered by local agencies which distribute Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) funds. Columbia customers who believe they are eligible for this assistance should contact their local Community Action agency directly to apply.

Eligible Lucas County residents may contact the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo, Inc. (EOPA) at 866-504-7392; eligible residents of Wood , Seneca, Ottawa and Sandusky counties may contact WSOS Community Action Commission, Inc. at 419-334-8911. Columbia customers who aren't sure which agency to contact may call the Columbia Customer Contact Center at 1-800-344-4077 for information on where to apply.

Columbia also announced today that money from its Rate Case Fuel Fund is now available through the local Community Action agencies. This fund is for customers with incomes below 175% of federal poverty guidelines who have already exhausted all other available funds, such as HEAP assistance.

Columbia will distribute $1.85 million through this fund over the next five winter heating seasons. Customers who would like to apply to this fund should contact their local Community Action agency.

"Through these two new funds, Columbia Gas of Ohio is providing additional tools to help customers pay their bills during the winter heating season," Partridge said. "During this time of serious economic challenges, we must do what we can to assist customers who are struggling with their finances."

Columbia Gas of Ohio, with headquarters in Columbus, is one of the nine energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI). Serving approximately 1.4 million customers in 60 of Ohio's 88 counties, it is the largest natural gas utility in the state. NiSource distribution companies serve approximately 3.8 million gas and electric customers primarily in seven states. More information about Columbia Gas of Ohio is available at: