FAIRPORT HARBOR, OH (WOIO) - The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday approved an Order that requires Dominion East Ohio to pay a fine of $500,000 and to take steps to ensure compliance with federal natural gas pipeline safety standards.
The penalties are based upon the PUCO staff's investigation of a January 2011 series of fires in Fairport Harbor, Ohio in which 11 homes were severely damaged and 150 homes required appliance repair or replacement, causing an estimated $1.3 million in property damage.
"The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safety of consumers," said Chairman Todd A. Snitchler in a press release. "By requiring operators of gas pipelines to comply with pipeline safety law, the PUCO seeks to ensure that pipeline operators take all reasonable steps to provide necessary safeguards. Today's Order represents just the second time this Commission has rendered a fine of this magnitude further emphasizing the PUCO's position in these matters and we fully expect Dominion's compliance to prevent a future event of this nature."
In its investigation, the PUCO staff reported that two low pressure regulating devices at the High Street regulator station in Fairport Harbor had failed on Jan. 24, 2011 due to the presence of pipeline fluids in the devices, which caused the pressure in the system to increase.
PUCO staff concluded that Dominion East Ohio had violated several sections of the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as provisions of the company's standard operating procedures (SOP) and guidelines.
As part of the Order approved by the Commission, Dominion East Ohio will continue to conduct a physical inventory of all regulator stations in its Ohio pipeline distribution systems and will modify its SOP to require an inspector to perform an internal inspection that exceeds federal law of a regulator when pipeline fluids are suspected. The company has also agreed to develop a written fluid mitigation program to detect and remove fluids in its pipeline system. In addition, Dominion must pay the $500,000 fine to the Ohio General Revenue Fund within 10 business days.
The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio's natural gas pipeline system. 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.
The Commission's opinion and order issued today in case number 12-380-GA-GPS will be available online at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter the case number.