Sunday, January 27, 2013

UGI's safety record: "downright alarming" and "patently unacceptable"

UGI is Pennsylvania's largest gas utility. After Hurricane Irene knocked out electric service to tens of thousands of residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania in August 2011, the slow response and lack of preparedness by UGI's electric division meant that UGI's electricity customers found themselves without power long after customers of other utilities had rejoined the modern world.

UGI was featured in two articles in the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice this past Friday, January 25. The first appeared on page 10, and had to do with UGI deciding to go ahead with plans to construct a pipeline, despite a denial of a "special exception" that would allow them to construct a gas compressor station that would be tied in to the pipeline.

UGI pushes ahead with pipeline plans
Published: January 25, 2013

Although plans for a natural gas compressor station in West Wyoming are temporarily on hold, UGI Energy Services still plans to construct a pipeline that will provide UGI Penn Natural Gas customers with gas from Northeastern Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale.

"We're moving forward with the pipeline regardless," said Kevin Kelleher, manager of producer services for UGI Energy Services Inc. in Wyomissing.

The company plans to run approximately 28 miles of 24-inch diameter pipeline from an existing facility in Washington Township, Wyoming County, to connect to a UGI utility line and the Transco interstate pipeline in West Wyoming.

UGI is obtaining required state permits, including from the Department of Environmental Protection. The company hopes to begin clearing the right-of-way in the spring, with the bulk of pipeline construction to take place during summer and early fall, Kelleher said.

...The route, as drawn up by Quad3 Group, starts at UGI's Washington Township facility and runs through Eaton and Northmoreland townships in Wyoming County.

In Luzerne County, the route goes through Franklin Township, under Cummings, Brace, Village, Sutton and Ridge roads, then crosses West Eighth Street and Coon Road. It then goes into Kingston Township beneath Mount Olivet Road, skirts Frances Slocum State Park and goes under Carverton Road and then into West Wyoming.

(full article)

Meanwhile, three pages later, we see this article from the AP about what people living in the vicinity of this pipeline can expect in the future:

Pa. fines utility $500K over blast that killed 5
By PETER JACKSON, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Utility regulators voted on Thursday to fine Pennsylvania's largest gas utility $500,000 for a 2011 natural gas explosion that killed five people in Allentown and called the company's safety record "downright alarming."

The Public Utility Commission unanimously approved modifications to a settlement with UGI Corp. that boosted the civil fine from $386,000 to the maximum allowed by law at the time of the explosion.

The settlement also requires the Reading, Pa.-based company to replace all its cast iron pipelines within 14 years and to expand and enhance its testing and monitoring programs.

The thunderous blast, which was traced to a crack in a cast iron gas main, killed five people, flattened a pair of rowhouses and set fire to a block of homes late one night in February 2011. Utility workers toiled for five hours to punch through ice, asphalt and concrete and seal the 12-inch main with foam to stop the flow of gas.

In their joint motion to modify the settlement, PUC Chairman Robert Powelson and Vice Chairman John Coleman said UGI's record of safety compliance is "patently unacceptable."

"This is the eighth time in slightly more than four years that this commission has adjudicated a matter containing allegations of gas safety violations by a UGI-owned gas distribution utility," they said. "This goes beyond cause for concern; it is downright alarming."

(full article)

Do you think anyone living near this new pipeline has any cause for concern? Living here in coal country, we know firsthand how concerned utilities are about cleaning up their messes after the boom goes bust. Will the gas industry be any different from the coal industry?


hedera said...

What is it about gas utilities? I am strongly reminded of Pacific Gas & Electric, where a faulty weld in an old iron pipe killed 8 people and levelled a neighborhood, after which they discovered that the company records were so bad they didn't even know what kind of pipe it was. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

If you think that is bad. Imagine the condition of the assets they moved to the unregulated side of the business where the PUC regulations do not even exist..... Its only a matter of time and a few more lives.... This only scratches the surface of an entrenched mentality and a directive to make money at all costs.