NIPSCO penalized for damaging pipelines

2013-07-25T14:31:00Z 2013-07-25T17:52:09Z NIPSCO penalized for damaging pipelinesJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

NIPSCO was cited for pipeline safety violations after utility workers repeatedly damaged lines they should have first located.

State regulators announced Thursday they were seeking $180,000 in penalties from NIPSCO, Citizens Gas and Vectren for multiple violations. NIPSCO faces $75,000 in fines for not following written standards and keeping accurate records of where the lines are buried.

All of the violations involved failures to keep accurate maps and follow procedures to locate pipelines, as required by the state's "Call Before You Dig" laws, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission said in a news release. Damaged pipelines can lead to natural gas explosions.

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

The state agency has jurisdiction over interstate pipelines that natural gas utilities operate and maintain. The IURC is supposed to ensure utilities comply with U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration rules and regulations.

IURC officials are fining NIPSCO $55,000 for 19 different cases where NIPSCO workers damaged pipes while digging because they weren't able to locate them. An additional fine of $20,000 was assessed for six cases were pipelines were damaged due to mapping issues.

NIPSCO identified corrective steps and will work to prevent pipelines damages, the company said in a statement.

"Public safety and the safety of our employees are top priorities, and we take that responsibility seriously," the statement said. "NIPSCO, along with every utility in the country, has an obligation to its customers to continually operate and maintain a safe energy infrastructure. NIPSCO has upgraded its systems and internal procedures to improve performance in responding to local requests received throughout the year, and will continue to investigate and implement further measures to reduce pipeline damages."

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