Thursday, February 1, 2024

PUC To Seek Comment On $250,000 Penalty Settlement With Peoples Gas On Natural Gas Over-Pressurization Incident In Indiana County That Damaged Hundreds Of Appliances, Caused Distribution Pipeline Leaks

On February 1, the Public Utility Commission
voted to seek public comment on a proposed settlement concerning events that resulted in the over-pressurization of the Peoples Natural Gas distribution system serving the community of Robinson, Indiana County, that caused a wide range of damage to utility and customer equipment.

The Commission voted 5-0 to publish the proposed settlement in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which will mark the start of a 25-day public comment period, after receiving additional specific financial information from Peoples Natural Gas and the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) related to the incident – clearly and publicly detailing the cost of replacing private property that was damaged.

Full instructions for submitting public comment will be provided when the proposed settlement is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

A copy of the Commission’s order and the proposed settlement are also being provided to the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate and Pennsylvania Office of Small Business Advocate for their consideration and comment.

The Commission will carefully review all comments received before issuing a final decision on this case.

Robinson Over-Pressurization Incident, Proposed Settlement

The case concerns an event that occurred on April 29, 2020, involving the over-pressurization of the Peoples Natural Gas distribution system serving Robinson, which occurred as technicians from the utility were conducting an annual inspection on the regulator for that system.

As a result of this incident, Peoples Natural Gas replaced 11 furnaces, 70 water heaters, one range, 194 furnace valves, and 135 water tank valves. 

They also replaced approximately 4,552 feet of steel pipe and 133 service lines and conducted daily leak surveys for eight weeks until all leaking service lines were replaced. 

According to the settlement, I&E noted that technicians failed to follow company procedure; that training materials provided by Peoples Natural Gas were not sufficiently detailed to ensure that employees were qualified; and that the design of the regulator station likely contributed to the incident.

The settlement calls for Peoples Natural Gas to pay a $250,000 civil penalty, which will not be recovered during any future rate case. 

Also, supplemental financial information submitted by the utility notes that the cost of replacing private property damaged during this incident was $305,206.10, which will not be recovered in any future rate case.

Additionally, the utility shall review all regulator stations in its distribution system within 30 days of the Commission’s final approval of the settlement; prioritize regulator station improvement projects based on a risk model; and make a series of procedural and training improvements intended to reduce the likelihood of future incidents.

For documents related to this case, visit PUC Docket No.:  M-2023-3024990.

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[Posted: February 1, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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