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PUCO fines Duke Energy $500,000 for explosion
The finding formally settles one of three pipeline-explosion investigations; Fairport Harbor investigation continues

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
In The Region:

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is fining a natural gas company half a million dollars for its role in one of the three pipeline explosions that struck Ohio over a span of 12 months.

WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports that federal and state investigators are still piecing together what happened with the other two, and what  their penalties should be.

Schultze: Pipeline investigations

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The PUCO approved a deal today with Duke Energy that includes a $500,000 fine and a requirement that the utility improve its safety procedures.

The penalties spring from a pipeline explosion in November of 2010 that destroyed an apartment building in the southwest Ohio city of Lebanon. The PUCO says Duke had failed to do a test when it reconnected residential gaslines, failed to oversee contractor training and failed to respond when customers complained of an odor.

Two months after that explosion, gas lines at the opposite end of the state, in the Northeast Ohio town of Fairport Harbor, blew. Dominion East Ohio Gas said ice and cold oily substances had jammed its pressure regulators, and the utility is spending 200 million dollars a year upgrading its pipelines. Matt Butler of the PUCO says Dominion is not alone.

“Dominion and a number of utilities in the state do have pipeline enhancement programs … where they’re replacing some of the older distribution lines with plastic lines in place of the old steel lines that serve communities.”

Butler says PUCO staff is nearing completion of the Fairport Harbor investigation. 

Ohio’s third major pipeline explosion last year happened when the Tennessee Pipeline in Morrow County exploded and  triggered multiple small fires. Because that pipeline crosses state lines, the feds are handling that investigation. 

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