Aspen alone in gas dispute |

Aspen alone in gas dispute

Greg MasséGlenwood Springs correspondent

The city of Glenwood Springs on Monday pulled out of a class-action lawsuit against Kinder Morgan that accused the company of overcharging natural gas customers on the Western Slope. Aspen city attorney John Worcester said Aspen plans to move forward with the suit. The lawsuit, which was filed jointly by the cities of Glenwood Springs and Aspen on behalf of customers in those cities and across the Western Slope, alleges that because the gas company failed to compensate for a decrease in air pressure at higher elevations – high elevation naturally decreases the density of the gas – the less-dense gas “had significantly lower heating content.”Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said it was time for the city to step away. “We accomplished a lot of the things we wanted to do,” he said.One of those accomplishments, he said, is that the company will more carefully scrutinize how it charges for its gas. Kinder Morgan’s retail division president Dan Watson said in a news release that the company is “pleased with the decision of Glenwood Springs to pull out of the lawsuit.” “This further validates our position that the case against us, which was actually prepared and signed by attorneys employed by Jack Grynberg, is frivolous and without merit. We continue to work toward a dismissal of the suit,” Watson continued. Hanlon said this was not the reason Glenwood Springs walked away from the suit. “It’s not frivolous and groundless. That threat and that assertion is not why Glenwood stepped away at this point,” he said. “They don’t bill based on altitude, there’s no question about that.”Worcester said he’s disappointed in Glenwood Springs’ decision.”We hoped Glenwood would at least stay through this motion to dismiss,” he said. Kinder Morgan filed a motion to dismiss the case in August; the motion has yet to be ruled on. “I think that’s an important issue,” Worcester said. If the motion to dismiss is denied, Worcester said the city of Aspen plans to take the case to trial. The suit, filed in Garfield County District Court, alleges that “since at least 1980 the natural gas companies have systematically and falsely represented the characteristics and quality of retail natural gas that they sold to plaintiffs and members of the class in order to unjustly enrich themselves,” a news release from the city of Aspen stated. At Aspen’s elevation – around 8,000 feet – the suit claims natural gas contains at least 23 percent less heating value than it would at sea level.As a result, the suit claims that the Kinder Morgan and its pipeline company, Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Co., “knowingly, deceptively and falsely fail to apply the required conversion factor when billing for the natural gas they have sold and continue to sell.”