Lisbon on board with gas aggregate ballot issue

LISBON – The village became the latest community in Columbiana County to place a natural gas aggregation issue on the ballot, but only after eliminating any wording that would tie them to the organization that brought the plan to them in the first place.

Council voted at this week’s special meeting to place the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, which, if approved by voters, would give them the option of entering into negotiations with suppliers on a lower natural gas rate that could be passed on to residents.

The idea was first brought to council in June by Sean Logan, a consultant representing the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, or NOPEC, which has a six-year deal with NextEra Energy as its exclusive natural gas supplier.

NextEra expects that 75 percent of its supply will come from gas companies drilling in Ohio, which NOPEC believes will be considerably cheaper than gas shipped in from out of state. NOPEC, a non-profit consortium of 134 communities, passes those savings on to citizens whose communities participate in the program.

The original resolution submitted by NOPEC for council to pass included several references to NOPEC. Concerned about being locked in with NOPEC and wanting to keep its options open, council directed Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak to remove any reference to NOPEC from the revised resolution that was passed.

“Obviously, they are going to write the contract in a way that favors them. I just took out all references to make it cleaner,” she said.

Council also declined to adopt a provided memorandum of understanding between the village and NOPEC obligating Lisbon to join the organization for obtaining favorable rates, should the ballot issue pass. This was done on Barborak’s recommendation for the same reason as the other changes.

“It’s better safe than sorry,” she said, adding she spoke with Logan, who understood why they were making the changes.

The village can still enter into an agreement with NOPEC at any time.

If the issue passes and council enters into a contract with a natural-gas supplier at a locked-in rate, households would automatically be enrolled in the program unless they choose otherwise, which can be done for free. Residents who opted out can rejoin at any time at no cost.

Although no one will know until next year what the rate will be, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the deal with NOPEC could save households as much as $100 per year.