Sissonville resident discouraged by Columbia Gas recovery effort - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Sissonville resident discouraged by Columbia Gas recovery efforts

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NiSource's Columbia Gas Transmission said in a Jan. 28 Senate field hearing in Charleston it was working to set things right with those who lost property in a December gas pipeline explosion, but the company's assurances upset at least one homeowner.

Jeff Haynes walked out during comments by NiSource CEO and executive vice president Jimmy D. Staton at a U.S. Senate Commerce hearing at the federal building in Charleston.

Haynes said he got frustrated when he heard Staton say the company takes safety very seriously and was dedicated to helping out the affected families in Sissonville.

"I think he is absolutely lying," Haynes said. "He's not trying to help families."

Haynes said he doesn't have a home anymore. The focus on preventing future pipeline accidents, Haynes said, is overshadowing taking care of damage that has already been done.

While Columbia has put Haynes in an apartment, he said the company has since said they would soon end payments for the apartment. Haynes said he thinks the company is threatening to stop keeping him in the apartment in order to force him to accept their offer.

Haynes said that in addition to not offering enough, he said he would be personally responsible for taxes of up to 40 percent on compensation offered to him.

"We don't have no home no more," he said. "They're not going after Columbia, that's what the problem is. It just makes me sick to my stomach."

During the hearing, Staton said the company is "fully committed to making this right and taking any steps necessary to ensure the safety of our company's pipeline system."

Columbia's efforts included donations to non-profits, schools and churches and emergency responders immediately following the incident.

Columbia also reimbursed state and local agencies that provided support and recovery efforts following the explosion.

"We recognize this was a difficult time for Sissonville and Kanawha County," Staton said. "It has been and will continue to be our priority to work proactively with those who were impacted, as well as those who lent a helping hand."

The company said it was working with families to compensate them as well.

That offered little comfort to Haynes.

"We didn't ask for the explosion," Haynes said. "We were happy where we lived, had a good life. They took everything from us."

Chad Zamarin, chief operating officer Columbia Gas, said he did not have comment specifically on Hayne's individual case or the issue raised regarding taxes. He said there is an effort to ensuring that Sissonville's residents are compensated for the issues they've faced as a result of the explosion.

"We've committed to do whatever we can, whatever is in our power, to make sure that the homeowners are treated fairly and address whatever needs we can reasonably address," Zamarin said.  

He added that the company is seeking to not only correct the past, but also to ensure such an incident doesn't repeat itself.

"We're committed to doing the right thing and righting the Sissonville accident," Zamarin said. "In a broader sense, ensuring that we learn from that incident and apply those lessons learned system-wide."