IURC Seeks Fines From Indiana Utilities

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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is proposing a total of $180,000 in fines for three utilities. The penalties against Indianapolis-based Citizens Energy Group, Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co., and Vectren Corp. (NYSE: VVC) in Evansville are for pipeline safety violations.

July 25, 2013

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- Today the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s (IURC) Pipeline Safety Division notified three major natural gas utilities – Citizens Gas, Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), and Vectren – of multiple pipeline safety violations and $180,000 proposed in total penalties.

"The explosion that occurred in San Bruno, California was a tragic wake up call," said IURC Chairman Jim Atterholt. "The Commission will continue to do everything in its power to be vigilant in enforcing current pipeline safety standards."

The IURC's Pipeline Safety Division has jurisdiction over intrastate pipelines operated and maintained by these companies. It is the division’s charge to ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s rules and regulations. If a violation is identified, the Pipeline Safety Division investigates the matter and may request penalties based on the infraction.

The violations and respective penalties for each operator are identified below:

Citizens Gas

Failure to follow written procedures – 49 CFR § 192.605 $30,000

NIPSCO

Failure to follow written procedures – 49 CFR § 192.605 $55,000

Failure to keep accurate records – 49 CFR § 192.603 and 170 IAC 5-3-2$20,000

Vectren

Failure to follow written procedures – 49 CFR § 192.605 $40,000

Failure to keep accurate records – 49 CFR § 192.603 and 170 IAC 5-3-2$35,000

The violations are failures by each operator to follow procedures and keep accurate maps and records of their underground facilities. Further, these failures resulted in either mislocating or not locating pipelines in accordance with Indiana’s "Call Before You Dig" laws. Properly responding to and locating pipelines is absolutely critical to avoiding property damage and personal injury, potentially resulting from natural gas explosions.

In addition to a monetary fine, each operator is also subject to additional compliance actions. The penalties and recommended actions vary by operator due to the number of instances and the severity of the probable violations.

Before the said penalties go into effect, the operators will have an opportunity to contest the violations and proposed penalties in a hearing before the IURC. In lieu of a hearing, the operator may accept the proposed penalty and take necessary action in order to be compliant with both federal and state rules.

Source: Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission