Whitesburg KY

County may start selling natural gas

Letcher County may soon go into the gas distribution business.

Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he spoke with state officials recently about the possibility of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, which is already registered as a utility, becoming a natural gas distributor. Ward said state officials told him the water and sewer district could distribute natural gas as long as the gas is coming from Letcher County. The Kentucky Geological Survey at the University of Kentucky reports that Letcher County produced 1,691,451.44 BQEQ (barrels of oil equivalent to cubic feet) of natural gas in 2008, the most recent year on record.

Magistrate Fleming was enthusiastic about the possibility of the county being able to provide natural gas to Letcher County citizens. Ward said several industries that have located at Gateway Industrial Park and others that have looked at the park as a site have expressed a desire to use gas as an energy source. Ward said gas heat for homes should cost less than electric heat with the current rates.

“We need to compete against the power company because they are putting it to us,” said Fleming. “I think Letcher County and Pike County have won a big battle with the power companies. The Senate (is considering) a law to elect the Public Service Commission. That, at least, gives us a chance to vote. Letcher County and Pike County have led the fight and 29th District Senator Johnny Ray Turner (Letcher) and 31st District Senator Ray Jones (Pike) led it in the Senate. We need to call our state representatives and tell them we want them to vote for this. I know ours will.”

Fleming said he had called American Electric Power about his electric bill, which he said was excessive, and asked them about it.

“They told me to unplug my phone charger,” said Fleming. “ They spend a fortune trying to buy some good will. But they can’t buy it back.”

Ward’s comments about the county becoming a gas distributor came as Jim Scott, a McRoberts resident who serves on the county’s Blighted and Deteriorated Property Committee, asked the court if progress was being made in freeing coal and gas companies who volunteer to help from liability issues to allow them to begin demolition of dilapidated properties. Judge Ward said the process is almost complete and explained that the companies wanted to have their attorneys draw up an agreement property owners could sign.

Scott, who also works with the Committee for a Better McRoberts, mentioned that the committee is ready to purchase emergency generators for a shelter in McRoberts and would probably go with a propane-fueled generator. Fleming said a simple jet replacement would allow the generators to run on natural gas as well.

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