Columbia Gas of Ohio president leaving post

Source: Columbus Business First 

Longtime Columbia Gas of Ohio President Jack Partridge is taking a new leadership position at parent company NiSource Inc.

Partridge, 67, has led Columbia Gas since 2003. He’ll stay in Columbus but work across NiSource’s seven-state region as chief policy officer, a new position for the changing company. He’ll report to new NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock.

“I’m going to be involved in policy and helping to get those projects to fruition,” Partridge told me of the company’s proposed shale-gas pipelines and other infrastructure projects, including replacing its Ohio pipeline system in a multi-billion dollar project.

Dan Creekmur, currently the general manager of Columbia Gas’ Ohio operations, will take over the biggest natural gas utility in the state Feb. 1. Creekmur, 35, a graduate of Capital University Law School, has worked at Columbia since 2007. He came from Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati and had interned at the utility. He has previously worked in regulatory affairs at Columbia, a skill that will be needed more than ever as the company works to complete proposed shale-gas pipelines running throughout the state.

Columbia and NiSource (NYSE:NI) are in the midst of major transition. Indiana-based NiSource will separate next year into two publicly traded companies, forming the new Columbia Pipeline Group. That means NiSource will be a pure-play, regulated natural gas and electric utility company.

Prices of natural gas are low because of the U.S. shale boom’s increased production. But one big issue facing Creekmur is what happens to natural gas once federal environmental regulations take a big chunk of coal-powered electric generation out of the market. Natural gas is expected to largely replace coal, and some in the utility industry, including American Electric Power Company Inc. (NYSE:AEP), are concerned there isn’t enough pipeline capacity to transport the gas.

Partridge said he doesn’t expect any extraordinary change in price even as natural gas is more widely used, and that the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in Ohio and Pennsylvania “could ultimately be the largest gas find in the world.”

NiSource leadership approached Partridge about the new lobbying position. The older he gets, he said, the more fortunate he is to have worked at Columbia, where he’s held various roles since 1977. Partridge has mentored Creekmur, and looks forward to ushering in the young talent.

“I was kind of shocked that I have been president of Columbia Gas of Ohio for 12 years, and frankly I almost feel a little bit selfish,” said Partridge, whose first job was as a page at NBC in New York. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Columbia Gas of Ohio has 1.4 million customers in 61 of Ohio’s 88 counties.