The Northern Indiana Public Service Company will pay a $900,000 fine and revise its pipeline safety management system after reaching an agreement with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission regarding problems with the timeliness and accuracy of underground utility locating services.
The IURC approved the settlement Wednesday. The agency had issued notices of violation late last year alleging 208 violations involving the timeliness of location services, and 53 errors in utility locates stemming from inaccuracy or inaccessibility of NIPSCO pipeline maps and records.
The utility failed to meet its own two-day standard for location services in the cited incidents regarding timeliness, according to the IURC. And, the commission wrote that it believes NIPSCO has lacked "a sense of urgency ... to update and modernize its pipeline maps and records."
NIPSCO will create a new pipeline safety management system and communicate more closely with the IURC's Pipeline Safety Division in the future, according to the settlement.
"Based on the evidence presented and the possible consequences that may occur as a result of being unable to accurately locate its facilities, it is imperative that NIPSCO use its resources to complete these reforms as soon as possible," the IURC wrote.
The notices of violation covered a period from mid-2015 to early 2016, according to NIPSCO. The utility has terminated its contract with the company that had been doing underground locates, it announced Wednesday, and will improve pipeline safety efforts.
"Ensuring the safety of the public, our natural gas system and our employees is the most important responsibility we have," NIPSCO Executive Vice President and President Violet Sistovaris said in a written statement issued Wednesday. "And, we're committed to making improvements in the areas identified by the commission."
NIPSCO has also agree to a structure to pay fines for any violations for the years 2017-2019 including performance milestones. "Thus, if NIPSCO achieves specific milestones relative to those damage metrics, NIPSCO should mitigate or eliminate the level of penalties through 2019," according to the IURC order.
NIPSCO said in testimony to the IURC it has "begun to see improvements in the accuracy and timeliness of locates" since hiring new contractors.