Several municipalities planning lawsuit over gas meters

COLUMBIA, P.A. --- Several central Pennsylvania communities are planning to potentially team up against the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission over UGI gas meters in historic districts.

City officials, such as Columbia Borough Manager Greg Sahd, said the phraseology they hear most often from residents is they're "ugly."

"What homeowner would want to see their home's value decrease as a result of something the homeowner has no control over?" said Sahd.

Lancaster City and Reading are already on-board for the lawsuit while Columbia and Carlisle still need to determine their role in the suit.

Lancaster City Mayor Richard Gray says the lawsuits purpose is "to assure that the historic properties and the nature of our community are preserved."

The suit claims the PUC allows utilities companies, such as UGI, to place meters anywhere around homes and properties without any consultation with owners.

Gray issued the following statement: "A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court case concerned the environmental amendment to the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights. In that suit, the Supreme Court held that environmental assets are held in trust by the Commonwealth. Though the Court did not specifically address the historic assets of the Commonwealth, that issue is addressed in the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights. It is our contention that the Public Utility Commission has failed to adequately protect the historic assets of our communities, and regulation issued which allows gas companies to make a determination regardless of the historic asset is an unconstitutional action pursuant to the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights. We hope to force the PUC to better regulate public utilities in regards to historic areas and properties."

Sahd said they hope they can get a ruling, allowing property owners in the historic districts the choice to decide where the gas meters should go.

"They (UGI) will have to put it inside rather than as a matter, of course path of least resistance, just putting it outside as a matter of convenience," said Sahd.

Sahd said several residents have voiced their frustration with the growing number of meters around the borough.

Commercial and residential property owner, Don Murphy, calls them an "eye sore."

He said the gas meters hinder the progress of the boroughs efforts to keep its historic look.

"We have these large gas meters placed right in front of the home and it just takes away the aesthetic feel of everything we're trying to accomplish here," said Murphy.

He said their hopes of preserving the look doesn't come down to owners or the municipalities.

"We're pretty much stuck with it being put where they say they have to put it. We have no say in the matter. If we want gas, that's where it goes," said Murphy.

Sahd said the borough council will decide in their upcoming meeting on Monday if they want to join the suit.

The lawsuit would have the respective towns share the cost of the amount, which wont exceed $130,000, proportionally based on population size.