CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegate Mike Pushkin says he hopes the bill he’s introduced in connection with last fall’s natural gas outage on Charleston’s West Side will be approved by state lawmakers.

Mike Pushkin

Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said the bill, HB 4010, would require utilities to alert customers when there are outages. More specifically the bill “would require utility services to contact ratepayers when there’s a planned electricity, water, or gas outage, or if an accident occurs.”

Pushkin, who lives on the West Side and went through the outage, remembers the frustration when a widespread natural gas outage took place when water from a water main break filled the lines on Nov. 10, 2023. Mountaineer Gas said 40 miles of lines filled with water. Some of the repairs weren’t completed until after Thanksgiving.

Pushkin, who was a guest Wednesday on WCHS Radio’s 580Live with Dave Allen, said no one was notified of the incident and many only found out there was a problem when they woke up cold the morning after it happened.

Pushkin said he believes the bill has good early momentum.

“It was single-referenced in the House which is a good sign, we still have time to get it passed,” Pushkin said. “I think it’s a bill that has bipartisan support and it’s a bill that you would think should already be in code.”

The bill was sent to the House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure.

Pushkin said he feels good about its passage.

“Hopefully, we get the bill running, we get it through the House and through the Senate and we get it on the governor’s desk,” he said. “I think it’s a bill that will protect the ratepayers out here, people who are paying their utility bills and deserve to have better communication with their utilities.”

Legal battles continue

Mountaineer Gas and West Virginia American Water Company are in a legal battle about who is to blame for the widespread outage. The state Public Service Commission is doing separate general investigations into the actions of the utilities.

Moses Skaff

The PSC stated that they will no longer play the role of a court to determine liability between the two companies, but instead, would “focus on reviewing maintenance practices and whether each utility acted reasonably and had procedures in place during and following the outage.”

Mountaineer Gas Senior Vice President Moses Skaff said his company is cooperating.

“We will continue to work with the Public Service Commission and continue as we have in the past at providing any information that they need through the course of their investigation,” Skaff said.

Meanwhile, West Virginia American Water has processed claims from about 500 customers. Some of them received up to $2,000 in damages.

There are at least two class-action lawsuits in the courts on behalf of customers impacted by the outage.