The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission today approved a settlement agreement that imposes the highest penalty ever on Puget Sound Energy for the 2016 Greenwood gas explosion that leveled three businesses and damaged another 50.
The main penalty is $1.5 million, with another $1.25 million in penalties if PSE doesn’t complete a comprehensive gas pipeline inspection and remediation program by agreed upon deadlines.
In September, the UTC found PSE at fault for the explosion, saying the utility’s contractor had improperly deactivated that gas line, which was then damaged by people who used the tiny space between two buildings to store their belongings and subsequently damaged the pipe. Nine firefighters were injured in the explosion.
According to today’s settlement agreement:
The complaint alleged five violations related to improper deactivation of a pipeline and failure to perform periodic gas leak surveys and corrosion tests as required by pipeline safety regulations. PSE did not contest the five violations.
The compliance program requires PSE to identify, inspect, and remediate more than 40,000 retired service lines, categorized as follows:
- Group 1: Within 18 months, complete initial inspections on all 3,060 service lines retired by PSE’s contractor between 2000-2010 located in business districts.
- Group 2: Within 24 months, complete initial inspections on a sample of 6,578 service lines for the 10,907 locations retired by PSE’s contractor between 2000-2010 that serve high occupancy structures, prioritizing schools, public buildings, and hospitals.
- Group 3: Within 36 months complete initial inspections on a sample of 3,263 service lines for the 15,131 locations retired prior to 2000 that may have served high occupancy structures, prioritizing schools, public buildings, and hospitals.
- Group 4: Within 36 months complete initial inspections on a sample of 3,069 service lines for the 11,691 locations retired after 2010 that may have served high occupancy structures, prioritizing schools, public buildings, and hospitals.
If the company discovers an active gas line in the sample from Groups 2-4, PSE must inspect all locations within that group and file an amended compliance plan with the commission.
PSE also agrees to evaluate active, above-ground service pipes as part of their regular inspection process with an enhanced focus on pipes susceptible to external damage, including tampering or vandalism.
The settlement also requires PSE to review its standards and practices related to deactivating service lines and implement employee training on any changes.