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instances of incorrect billing, relating to both gas and electric service, and others of overindexing have been discovered. During 1917, 168 such investigations were made.
In the interest of quick justice the Commission makes every effort to have these various complaints satisfied as between the consumer and the company and in the shortest time possible. About 95 informal complaints have thus been adjusted.
Provision is made in the Public Service Commissions Law that gas companies may not set gas meters which have not previously been tested for accuracy and sealed as accurate by the Commission. Therefore, in accordance with this provision the Commission tested during 1917 a total of 328,199 gas meters. Of this number 62,258 were new meters, 262,155 were repaired and removed meters and 3,787 meters tested upon complaints of consumers. Although a 2 per cent error in gas meters tested upon complaint of consumers is allowed, it has been deemed advisable by the Commission not to seal any meter new, repaired or removed as accurate which did not register absolute accuracy.
Tables shown in this chapter give the results of tests of gas and electric meters upon complaint of consumers. Of the 3,787 gas meters tested upon complaint 1,457 were more than 2 per cent fast or 36.6 per cent of the whole number tested. Of electric meters tested as a result of complaint, 8 or 3 per cent of the total number tested were more than 4 per cent fast.
Since the creation of the Commission in July, 1917, there have been tested a grand total of 3,785,348 gas meters and 5,737 electric meters.
Gas Standards The Commission's investigation relating to suitable and proper standards for the measurement of the quality of gas has been continued throughout the past year for use in proceedings before the Commission described in greater detail later. The Chief Gas Engineer and his subordinates have made many tests in close co-operation with the officials of the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity of the City of New York. The municipal department mentioned is required under the terms of the City Charter to make daily tests of the candle-power of gas. The joint tests were begun early in the year at one or two testing stations and were extended to all the testing stations in the City as fast as the necessary apparatus could be secured. During the year four thousand of these heating value tests were made at thirteen testing stations. These tests cover the quality of gas supplied through twenty-three different supply lines by twelve gas companies. In tabulating the tests it has been considered that, if more than one test of each kind was made at a testing station during one day, the average of the tests made represented the quality of the gas supplied on that particular day. Where gas supplied by one company was taxed at more than one station, the average of the results secured at each station was taken as the daily average for the company. The monthly average was then determined by averaging the daily averages and the average of the end of the year has been taken as the average of the monthly averages. A summary of this test data is shown on an accompanying table.
Under the law, all the companies in this district are called upon to supply gas showing 22 candle-power as tested at testing stations located not less than one mile from the companies' distributing stations. A study of the test data shows that the candle-power is frequently less than 22 and in the case of some companies, even the monthly average is less than the minimum fixed by statute. The heating value tests made to date show that the average of all the testing stations in the City was in excess of 650 B. T. U. total heating value. The average for some companies had been considerably in excess of this figure and for other companies considerably less. In other words it has been found that there is no exact heating value equivalent for 22 candlepower gas, but the tests do show that under a 22 candle-power standard the gas has maintained a monthly average of from 630 to 670 total heat units in all cases.
Change In Gas Standard In March, 1916, the Commission took up the question of the advisability of a change in the standard of gas furnished in the First District from a candle-power to a heat unit basis. In recent years there has been a very considerable movement toward the substitution of the heat unit for the candle-power standard. In many parts of the country and in certain towns or cities the heat, or British Thermal Unit standard, as it is commonly termed, has been adopted and is in effect. Within the Eirst District the existing standard is that provided for "by statute, namely, 22 candle-power. The growing use of gas lamps which utilize the heat contained in the gas by heating mantles to incandescence has become widespread in localities where gas is manufactured and used, while there has been a general and growing use of gas for heating and industrially. Gas of high heating quality may be manufactured much cheaper than gas of high candle-power, as the latter requires the extensive use of expensive oils and other chemical ingredients.
Hearings were held during the spring and summer of 1916 under Case No. 2066, begun in March of that year with Commissioners J. 0. Carr and William Temple Emmet of the Commission for the Second District participating. As a result of conferences between the Commission's experts and experts of other bureaus and departments and of the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a report was made to the Commission in favor of the adoption of the heat unit standard. On June 29, 1916, the Commission authorized the making of extensive tests by its chief gas engineer, W. F. Hine, which tests were proceeded with during the latter part of 1916 and early in 1917. In January, 1917, as the result of many complaints concerning the quality of gas furnished in the Borough of The Bronx, the Commission began a formal proceeding (Case 2207), which was a general investigation of the quality of gas and of a number of associated matters in reference to service, etc. The general claim put forth was that the quality of gas furnished in The Bronx was inferior and that frequently the standard fell below the 22 candle-power called for by statute. The question of refund to customers for overcharges and for poor quality- of gas furnished was one of the matters gone into, and possible reparation legislation was discussed.
Later when the Commission's engineers had completed the tests of illuminating gas which had been under way at various stations in the City in connection with the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity, a proceeding was begun on August 20, 1917 (Case Wo. 2235), when the Commission directed that a hearing be held on September 18, 1917, to determine whether the heating value standard be adopted for this district. Commissioner Travis H. Whitney at the same time filed a memorandum setting forth the advisability of a change in the standard. He pointed out that it might be advisable to permit the gas companies to furnish gas at any heating standard they might wish, within liberal limits, with a charge to consumers which would vary from the present fixed price as the B. T. U. content varied from the present figure. He pointed out that the adoption of a new standard would allow greater range in raw material in manufacture and greater opportunity for economical production. He asserted that a certain national necessity existed for some of the chemical by-products in gas manufacture and that such a change in standard would serve a distinct national need by making recovery of these ingredients possible. Hearings were held during the fall at which much testimony was taken, including the results of the various tests made. The gas companies objected to any inclusion of fact in this testimony which would tend to show that a reduction in the B. T. U. content or in the candle-power of gas furnished should be accompanied by a reduction in the price or by its equivalent of discounts to consumers. The point was made in the proceeding of the need by the United States Government of toluol, one of the chemical by-products mentioned, which is the base of certain high explosives. A hearing was held on October 9 and was adjourned to October 23.
On October 3, 1917, the military necessity for immediately increased production of toluol having been explained to Chairman Oscar S. Straus and the other Commissioners by officers of the Ordnance Department at Washington, the Commission approved a memorandum by the Chairman and adopted an order providing a method by which the gas companies of ~New York City might change for the period of the war and three months thereafter from the candle-power to the heat unit standard without injury to consumers and at the same time install the necessary apparatus to furnish the Government with the desired ingredient, toluol.
The Chairman emphasized the national emergency which confronted the Commission and which made it imperative, he stated, that in the exercise of the powers conferred upon it, some immediate action be taken to adapt the methods of manufacture in New York to paramount national needs. The nation's interest would be jeopardized if delay should prevent the maximum recovery of the toluol. He indicated that the national authorities were ready to meet the cost of the installation of the necessary plants at gas manufactories for the recovery of this needed chemical.
He also said that the companies could not expect.to change the quality of gas and furnish at the same price gas of less value to the consumers than was being furnished under the present law and that, therefore, if the gas companies decided to adopt the heat unit standard and thereafter furnish fewer B. T. XL's to the consumer than were furnished under the candle-power standard, then the companies must make provision to discount consumers' bills in proportion to the reduction in thermal units supplied.
The opinion fixed the standard at 650 B. T. XL's, below which, if reduction of quality were made in gas furnished, consideration should be given to the question of discounts in consumers' bills. Provision was also made that the companies must furnish a number of mantle lights to each consumer.
The Chairman also made it clear that the Commission reserved the right to continue the investigation with a view to reaching a final determination of the gas standard after the war necessity was over. This order was issued and served upon all the gas companies operating within the First District, application being made by them for a rehearing on the ground that the order was confiscatory, depriving them of certain rights they possessed. The Commission took these applications under consideration, but at the end of the year no decision had been reached, the matter being still a subject of conference among officials of gas companies, officials of the United 'States War Department and of the Commission.