the May 6 ballot
to decide natural gas issue
Yellow Springs voters will head to the polls next Tuesday to decide whether
the Village can negotiate natural gas rates on behalf of local residents.
If approved, Issue 4 will set up a municipal natural gas aggregation system
here, overseen by the Village, as part of the State of Ohios natural
gas deregulation program. In January, Village Council agreed to place
the issue on the ballot, saying that the Village could negotiate better
gas rates than individual customers.
The States deregulation law mandates that voters approve municipal
aggregation programs. According to the Ohio Consumers Counsel, since
1999 more than 190 communities in Ohio have approved ballot issues authorizing
Issue 4 is the only local issue on the May 6 ballot, which in Yellow Springs
will feature electronic voting machines. The Greene County Board of Elections
decided to test the new machines in town, instead of using the punch-card
systems the County normally uses.
Information on the election was presented at an April 22 forum, sponsored
by the Yellow Springs Mens Group. The forum featured Greg Sloan,
general manager of AMPO, Inc., a for-profit affiliate of American Municipal
Power of Ohio (AMP-Ohio), the Villages wholesale electricity supplier,
and Kim Talley, manager of Vectren Energy Deliverys Choice Program.
The forum will be broadcast on the local cable access station, channel
13, on Monday and Tuesday, May 5 and 6.
Approval of the ballot issue would allow the Village to establish an opt-out
aggregate buying group that would initially include all eligible customers.
Local residents would have the option to opt out of, or not participate
in, the buying group. In that case those customers could choose their
own natural gas suppliers, or stick with the current supplier, Vectren.
Anyone enrolled in the Villages program would have the option to
opt out every two years without paying a fee. Residents who opt out may
also join the Villages buying group later.
Opt-out aggregation is geared toward residential and small commercial
customers. Large industrial and commercial businesses consuming a large
supply of natural gas are not eligible to participate in the program.
Under the program, the Village would work with AMPO, which specializes
in natural gas and electric aggregation, develop an aggregation plan,
negotiate rates and educate the community on gas issues. Sloan described
aggregation as a way to combine a number of customers into a buying group
to purchase utility services hopefully at a lower rate.
Sloan said that AMPO would try to negotiate rates for one or two years.
A contract could be negotiated by late summer, he said, at which time
local residents would be notified through written correspondence of terms
and conditions of the proposed contract. Villagers would then have the
choice to opt out of the Villages program.
The new rates could go into effect by early fall, before the 200304
heating season, Sloan said.
The opt-out program would be similar to the Villages electric system,
which does not generate its own power but instead works with AMP-Ohio
and other area communities to purchase electricity from suppliers. The
Village does own and maintain electric lines and a substation on Fairfield
One way natural gas aggregation would differ from electricity is that
the Village would not own the gas pipelines through which natural gas
would be delivered to Yellow Springs customers. Instead, Vectren would
continue to deliver natural gas to town. Vectren would also respond to
emergencies, read meters and maintain billing responsibilities.
The program would not provide additional revenue for the Village, Sloan
If Yellow Springs residents do not want to participate in the Villages
aggregation program, they could choose to join Vectrens Choice Program,
which Talley explained during last weeks forum.
The program was launched in January and now includes nearly 1,800 residential
customers and 750 business customers, she said.
Both Talley and Sloan said that the main issue with natural gas deregulation
is the terms and conditions of the contract customers agree to, including
the length of the agreement. Gas is gas, Talley said.
During a presentation on natural gas aggregation he gave to Council last
December, Sloan said that customers in other Ohio communities that have
become gas aggregators have typically saved about 5 to 10 percent on the
on this issue:
More information on natural gas aggregation and deregulation is available
from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, www.puco.ohio.gov or 1-800-686-7826,
or from the Ohio Consumers Counsel, www.pickocc.org or 1-877-742-5622.
Issue 4 ballot language
The following is the language that will appear on the May 6 ballot:
Shall the Village of Yellow Springs have the authority to aggregate
the retail natural gas loads located in the Village, and for that purpose,
enter into service agreements to facilitate for those loads the sale and
purchase of natural gas, such aggregation to occur automatically except
where any person elects to opt out, all in accordance with Section 4929.26
of the Ohio Revised Code and Ordinance 2003-01 adapted by the Village
Residents should answer yes or no.