Thomas lays groundwork for gas-industry hearing

During the recent gas crunch, state Rep. Charles Thomas was vocal in his criticism of the fuel-distribution scheme that left independent gas distributors high and dry, asserting that the oil industry “is begging us to regulate them” if it can’t manage supplies more efficiently. At the time, Thomas also swore to investigate the matter further and bring it into the public eye.

Thomas has decided not to run for re-election, so his term ends in January, but he told Xpress that the issue is still important, and he’s trying to persuade members of the House’s Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee to take up the matter.

“I’ve talked to some of the members about holding hearings on this,” Thomas said. “There was a lot of interest—and no objections. Quite the opposite, actually. They’re all very concerned about this issue. I want to build a consensus to take this on.”

Specifically, he said that fellow Buncombe Rep. Susan Fisher and committee Chair (and Guilford Representative) Pricey Harrison had indicated that they would support holding hearings on how the fuel companies do business.

However, Thomas said, the hearings will likely not happen until mid-January at the earliest.

“That’s one of the problems of a part-time legislature,” he said. “It takes a long time to get anything done. It can be a good thing: Sometimes if too many things are done in a rush, it ends up being harmful. But this might be one of those cases where it would come in handy not to have [a] part-time legislature.”

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