62-36A.  Natural gas planning.

(a)        The Commission shall require each franchised natural gas local distribution company to file reports with the Commission detailing its plans for providing natural gas service in areas of its franchise territory in which natural gas service is not available. Commission rules shall require that each local distribution company shall update its report at least every two years.

(b)        The Commission shall develop rules to carry out the intent of subsection (a) of this section, and to produce an orderly system for reviewing current levels of natural gas service and planning the orderly expansion of natural gas service to areas not served. These rules shall provide for expansion of service by each franchised natural gas local distribution company to all areas of its franchise territory by July 1, 1998 or within three years of the time the franchise territory is awarded, whichever is later, and shall provide that any local distribution company that the Commission determines is not providing adequate service to at least some portion of each county within its franchise territory by July 1, 1998 or within three years of the time the franchise territory is awarded, whichever is later, shall forfeit its exclusive franchise rights to that portion of its territory not being served.

(b1)      The Commission shall issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity in accordance with the provisions of Article 6 of this Chapter for natural gas service for all areas of the State for which certificates have not been issued. Issuance of certificates shall be completed by January 1, 1997, and shall be made after a hearing process in which any person capable of providing natural gas service to an area of the State for which no certificate has been issued or for which no application has been made by July 1, 1995, may apply to the Commission to be considered for the issuance of a certificate under the provisions of this subsection. In issuing a certificate for any unfranchised area of the State, the Commission shall consider the timeliness with which each applicant could begin providing adequate, reliable, and economical service to that area, as well as any other criteria the Commission finds to be relevant, and the Commission may issue a certificate covering less than the total area applied for by an applicant. If the Commission issues a certificate covering less than the total area applied for by the applicant, the applicant may refuse the certificate. In the event that the Commission receives no application for issuance of a certificate for service to a particular area of the State, or in the event a certificate for service to a particular area is not awarded for any reason, the Commission shall issue a certificate for that area to a person or persons to whom a certificate has already been issued.

(c)        Within 180 days after all local distribution companies have filed their initial or biennial update reports, the Commission and the Public Staff shall independently provide analyses and summaries of those reports, together with status reports of natural gas service in the State, to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.  (1989, c. 338, s. 1; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 560, s. 1; 1995, c. 216, s. 1; c. 271, s. 1; 2011-291, s. 2.10.)