Columbia Gas ordered to pay half a million dollar fine to PA for 2018 gas incident in Fayetteville

25 August 2023- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved a revised settlement related to events that resulted in the over-pressurization of Columbia Gas distribution systems in Fayetteville, Franklin County and Rimersburg, Clarion County. 

The case concerns alleged over-pressurization events that occurred in January 2018, involving the Columbia Gas natural gas distribution system in Fayetteville, and events in May and June of 2018, involving the distribution system in Rimersburg.  Both incidents were attributed to issues related to the maintenance and operation of bypass valves on the Columbia Gas systems in those communities.

The Commission voted 5-0 today to approve the revised settlement submitted by Columbia Gas and the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) – following the review public comments regarding the settlement, along with consideration of additional information about the incident that had been sought by the Commission.

Revised Columbia Gas Settlement

The settlement requires Columbia Gas to pay a $535,000 civil penalty, payable within 30 days to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which will not be tax deductible and cannot be recovered as part of any future ratemaking proceeding.

Additionally, the settlement details a series of corrective actions that Columbia Gas has taken or will take to prevent similar incidents in the future, including:

  • Implementation of a comprehensive safety management system that includes issues related to bypass valves.
  • Inventorying all bypass valves in the Columbia Gas system in Pennsylvania, including details about age, manufacturer, size, pressures, and other details about the valves.
  • Development of preventative measures and a replacement schedule for valves to prevent them from bleeding through or failing.
  • Improvements in the active monitoring of valves.
  • Installation of remote electronic pressure monitoring devices.
  • Revisions to inspections forms for bypass valves to record additional information about pressure measurements.
  • Implementation of a pilot standard operating procedures regarding the shut down and startup of regulator stations, including specific observation/inspections of bypass valves.

Moreover, the settlement explains Columbia Gas’ replacement of significant amounts of pipeline sections designed to improve the safety profile of the Rimersburg and Fayetteville systems.