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COLUMBIA COMPANIES GRANTED ADDED TIME TO FILE REORGANIZATION PLANS; MOTION PROPOSES EXPEDITIOUS PROCEDURE TO ESTIMATE MAJOR CLAIMS

COLUMBIA COMPANIES GRANTED ADDED TIME TO FILE REORGANIZATION PLANS;
 MOTION PROPOSES EXPEDITIOUS PROCEDURE TO ESTIMATE MAJOR CLAIMS
 WILMINGTON, Del., March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware today granted an interim extension of the periods under which The Columbia Gas System, Inc. (NYSE: CG) and its principal pipeline subsidiary, Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., have exclusive rights to file Chapter 11 reorganization plans until April 13, 1992, the date of the court's next scheduled hearing on the Columbia cases.
 The current exclusivity periods were to expire today.
 Columbia Transmission also filed a procedure that would enable the court to estimate all disputed or unliquidated unsecured claims in excess of $50,000 expeditiously, efficiently and equitably. Most of the claims in this category arise from Columbia Transmission's rejection of more than 4,700 noncompetitive gas purchase contracts that were the root of the company's financial problems.
 The court will consider at its April 13 hearing a joint motion by Columbia Transmission and its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, acting unanimously, that seeks to extend the company's exclusivity period to April 30, 1992.
 The motion explained that the additional time was required because of the many complex issues which arise in a proceeding of this magnitude and the need to review the nearly 10,000 claims filed against Columbia Transmission. It also pointed out that the proposed estimation process will facilitate the formulation and confirmation of a reorganization plan.
 As stated in the motion, a preliminary review of the claims resulting from the noncompetitive gas purchase contracts that the court permitted Columbia Transmission to reject indicates that they are based upon radically different theories and measures of damages and upon inconsistent or conflicting assumptions.
 James P. Holland, chairman and chief executive officer of Columbia Transmission, said the review also indicates that the claims could approach $10 billion and that many producers are seeking damages far in excess of the amounts which Columbia Transmission believes are justified. "Consequently," Holland said, "we have asked the bankruptcy court in a separate filing to estimate and cap these claims using a procedure that establishes an expedited discovery process that would lead to the computation of individual claims using common legal and factual determinations."
 Under the timetable contained in the motion, the process would be completed and ready for hearing by August 26, 1992. Absent the procedure, Columbia Transmission warned that the adjudication of individual claims before the court could require years and an enormous expenditure of resources.
 As presently envisioned, Columbia Transmission's reorganization plan would pay all secured, administrative and priority claims in full. The plan would also pay 100 percent to those creditors whose unsecured claims total $5,000 or less and 75 percent to those whose claims total between $5,000 and $50,000. These two groups represent an estimated 80 percent of the company's creditors.
 The court also will consider at its April 13 hearing a parent company motion, supported by its Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors and the Official Committee of Equity Security Holders that seeks to extend the company's exclusivity period to July 29, 1992.
 Columbia System Chairman and CEO John H. Croom said the parent company is seeking a longer extension "so that it could see if progress could be made in resolving issues involved in Columbia Transmission's plan, recognizing that they will have an effect on how certain issues are treated under the parent company plan."
 Croom also reaffirmed earlier statements that the parent company's intention is for the parent company's Chapter 11 reorganization plan to propose to pay all of the parent company's creditors in full, including post-filing interest and interest on overdue interest. He also said that the parent plan is not expected to result in any dilution of the interests of its stockholders.
 Croom said that, despite the bankruptcy proceedings, day-to-day operations of all of the System's business units, including Columbia Transmission, remain sound. Consumers continue to receive the highest quality service from its distribution companies.
 The Columbia Gas System is one of the largest natural gas systems in the United States. Its subsidiaries are engaged in the production, purchase, storage, transmission and distribution of natural gas at wholesale and retail as well as related energy development. Directly, or indirectly, Columbia companies serve more than 8 million homes, businesses and industries in 15 states. The parent company and Columbia Transmission filed separate petitions seeking protection under Chapter 11 on July 31, 1991, as a result of unmanageable losses that the transmission company faced if required to purchase gas under noncompetitive contracts.
 /delval/
 -0- 3/30/92
 /CONTACT: H.W. Chaddock, 302-429-5261, or W.R. McLaughlin, 302-429-5443 (media); or D.W. McFarland, 302-429-5363, or T.L. Hughes, 302-429-5471, (analysts); or 302-429-5000/
 (CG) CO: The Columbia Gas System, Inc. ST: Delaware IN: OIL SU: RCN


JS -- PH024 -- 2898 03/30/92 12:34 EST
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Date:Mar 30, 1992
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