The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved a settlement with UGI Utilities Inc. that included a $200,000 civil penalty, which stemmed from an investigation into an Oct. 31, 2011, explosion in Millersville that caused about $455,000 in damages to a home and business.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the settlement, which, in addition to the civil penalty, included changes to the company’s’ practices and procedures to ensure that work crews were retrained regarding emergency protocol and receive additional education on excavation. Civil penalties cannot be recovered from ratepayers and are paid to the state’s general fund.
“This case illustrates the importance of both facility owners and excavators meeting their obligations under the PA One Call Act,” said PUC Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr. in a statement. “In Pennsylvania, third-party line hits of underground utility facilities have been and continue to be the leading cause of damage to utility infrastructure. To help avoid these hits, I urge utilities to be vigilant in complying with their PA One Call responsibilities, including those related to line marking.”
Commissioner Gardner said in a statement: “…the parts of the Settlement which are essential to my support are the agreement by the utility to update its procedures for line location and emergency shut offs, and the agreement by the utility to provide remedial training for all line location employees at the three UGI companies.”
In addition to the civil penalty, UGI will:
- Re-train its line locators and improve its response procedures;
- Enhance its internal line location screening system to generate an email to a local office to increase communication with the digging party;
- Reclassify certain valves when they are reconnected to the distribution system;
- Audit certain valves to make sure they are properly classified;
- Improve response timing and information about the location valves;
- Provide additional training for its first responders; and
- Enhance communication with other utilities.
According to the complaint filed by the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, the explosion was caused when a third-party contractor digging at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Shertzer Lane, Millersville, struck and ruptured a UGI gas main. However, according to the complaint, UGI failed to properly mark its underground facilities and to have procedures in place to locate lines; to have appropriate measures in place to address damage prevention; to timely inspect a shut-off valve; and to shut down the gas line in a timely manner all contributed to the explosion. UGI provides natural gas service to about 320,000 customers in 15 southeastern counties.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.