COLUMBUS, OHIO (Jan. 20, 2016) – Today the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved an agreement requiring Columbia Gas of Ohio to pay a fine of $200,000, take steps to improve its record keeping and enhance safety outreach throughout its service territory. The penalties are based upon the PUCO staff’s investigation of a March 2015 home explosion in Upper Arlington, Ohio that caused an estimated $9 million in property damage.
“Pipeline safety is of the utmost importance to the PUCO,” stated PUCO Chairman Andre T. Porter. “The agreement approved today will go a long way to reassure local communities and customers that their natural gas is delivered in a manner that is both safe and reliable.”
The PUCO staff investigation revealed that a series of actions by various parties combined to cause the explosion. When an old natural gas service line leading to the home was replaced, it was not properly disconnected from Columbia’s main line. A curb valve to the old natural gas service line was misidentified as a water valve, and when a City of Columbus Water Department technician operated the valve, natural gas flowed into the home through the improperly abandoned line and ignited.
PUCO staff concluded that Columbia did not follow its operating procedures to properly abandon an old service line, including removing or sealing the valve box and physically disconnecting the service line from its main line.
As part of the agreement, Columbia will enhance its record management by including GPS locations of curb boxes and other infrastructure in its internal records. Columbia will also increase its safety-related public awareness efforts directed towards customers, local officials, first responders and other utilities operating throughout its service territory. Columbia must pay $200,000 to the Ohio General Revenue Fund within 10 days, and hold an additional $200,000 in abeyance should it fail to fulfill its obligations under this agreement.
The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio's natural gas pipeline systems. PUCO investigators inspect each natural gas pipeline system in the state at least once every two years and review records and procedures implemented by utilities. When violations are detected, the PUCO orders corrective action and may assess fines and other penalties to ensure that Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems continue to deliver natural gas safely and reliably.
Today’s Commission order, as well as the agreement filed by Columbia and PUCO staff, is available in the case docket for case 15-1351-GA-GPS.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
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