The Times West Virginian

December 23, 2013

Equitable Gas now Peoples Gas WV

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Customers will notice that Equitable Gas Co. is now Peoples Gas WV.

In December 2012, the proposed sale of Equitable Gas Co. LLC, the natural gas distribution business of EQT Corp., to Peoples Gas WV LLC was announced. After gaining approval from different federal and multi-state regulatory agencies, the transaction was finalized on Dec. 17 of this year.

Peoples Gas has been in business for more than 130 years, said Barry Kukovich, manager of community relations for the company. In February 2010, the public utility was sold by its large, out-of-state owner and began to rebuild at that time. Within two years, Peoples Gas — located in 16 counties in western Pennsylvania — went from 500 to 1,000 employees.

EQT, which has a history that goes back more than 120 years, concentrates on producing, gathering and transmitting natural gas in the Appalachian area. This integrated energy company utilizes advanced horizontal drilling technology and works to fill the need for energy that burns cleanly, according to a press release from EQT.

“Really, our focus shifted a few years back more toward the natural gas exploration and production, and midstream operations,” said Natalie Cox, corporate director of communications for EQT.

The sale of Equitable Gas allows EQT to continue to focus on its core businesses and grow in those areas, she said.

“With a modest amount of capital, the acquired midstream assets will become a valuable addition to our strategically located pipeline network — serving EQT production and other Marcellus natural gas producers,” David Porges, CEO of EQT, said in a news release.

Cox said EQT’s drilling and midstream operations mainly take place in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania, which is particularly the Marcellus Shale. The company is also doing some drilling in the Huron Shale in Kentucky.

While EQT wished to separate itself from the utility portion of its business, Peoples Gas wanted to bring in more customers as a public utility, Kukovich said. He explained that many Equitable Gas and Peoples Gas pipelines overlapped or ran beside each other in western Pennsylvania.

“Our goal is to remain a public utility company and become a better and a bigger utility company,” he said. “This is a sale that worked out between EQT and ourselves. We’re happy to take over the utility portion of the company and merge Equitable Gas into us.”

With the transaction, Peoples Gas will add roughly 17,000 new customers in the I-79 Corridor, mostly in Fairmont and Clarksburg. This will be the company’s first time expanding beyond western Pennsylvania and providing services in West Virginia, Kukovich said.

“In West Virginia, all employees are being kept,” he said. “It’s a great workforce to begin with.”

Kukovich said Peoples Gas places a lot of emphasis on supporting the community.

“We are very involved with community development here,” he said. “We really see what we do as a partnership with our communities. We’re literally invested in our communities; that’s where our pipelines are.”

The sites where Equitable Gas customers could previously take care of their bills will no longer accept payments. But Peoples Gas has established several new, convenient locations where residents can pay their bills in person if they wish.

Those locations include the following:

• Rite Aid, 627 Fairmont Ave., Fairmont;

• BFS Foods, 307 Merchant St., Fairmont;

• South Fairmont Shop N Save, 1208 Fairmont Ave., Fairmont;

• BFS Foods, 2201 Pleasant Valley Rd., Fairmont;

• North Pole Ice, 607 S. Monticello Ave., Clarksburg; and

• Kroger, 788 W. Pike St., Clarksburg.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.