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In 1997, the General Assembly adopted a new regulatory model for natural gas distribution companies in which competitive marketers have an opportunity to provide natural gas services to Georgia consumers. The General Assembly found market-based competition as the best mechanism for selecting and providing natural gas services at the most efficient price.
The Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act's stated intent and purposes are to: promote competition; protect the consumer during and after the transition to competition; maintain and encourage safe and reliable service; deregulate those components of the industry subject to actual competition; continue to regulate those services subject to monopoly power; promote an orderly and expeditious transition of the industry toward fully developed competition; provide for rate-making methods which include the use of straight fixed variable rate design, the recovery of certain stranded costs and the use of alternative forms of rate regulation; and allow gas companies the opportunity to compete effectively in a competitive marketplace. O.C.G.A. § 46-4-.151(b)(1)-(8).
The Act was amended in 1999 with House Bill 822, relating to customer assignment, and again in 2001 with Senate Bill 217, which addressed pricing, billing, meter reading and other consumer issues.
In 2002, the General Assembly passed the Consumers' Relief Act to set forth a Consumer Bill of Rights and to establish a regulated provider for low-income and high risk customers. The Act increased consumer protection and strengthened enforcement.
Soon after the passage of the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act, Atlanta Gas Light Company elected to open its territory to competition. By mid-1998, the Commission concluded its review of AGLC's rates and notice of election. In its Final Order in Docket No. 8390-U, Notice of Election and Application of Atlanta Gas Light Company, June 30, 1998, the PSC approved a new rate schedule and set forth other conditions for the transition to competition, as required by the Act. Georgia's other local distribution company, Atmos Energy, has not opened its market to competition.
To obtain a certificate of authority, an applicant must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that it possesses adequate financial and technical capability to sell or offer to sell natural gas within the state. Rules Regarding Marketer Certification contain the determining criteria for the issuance of a certificate of authority. Nineteen companies filed Applications for Marketers' Certificates of Authority in late-1998. Others have since applied and been granted certificates. Few of the original Natural Gas Marketers are actively operating in Georgia today.