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Pennsylvania authorities file formal complaint against utility over fatal gas explosion

05 October 2018

According to ABC, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has filed a formal complaint alleging UGI Utilities violated state and federal regulations regarding a fatal natural gas explosion in a house near Lancaster, central Pennsylvania, last year.

The complaint says UGI's procedures at the time of the explosion were deficient, especially in recognising and managing an underground blowing gas situation, and the actions taken by UGI employees were not prioritised to protect life and property and eliminate hazards.

The blast on July 2, 2017, killed a UGI technician and injured two other employees. The house in Manor Township was levelled and two neighbouring houses were condemned for demolition.

The PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement proposes that UGI pay a civil penalty of $2,090,022 for 19 violations. The complaint also proposes 15 corrective actions.
Among the violations, the complaint states that:
* the first UGI employee on the scene entered and remained in the house, even after determining the home had an explosive level of natural gas;
* the resident of 206 Springdale and the residents of 202 Springdale were permitted to stay inside their homes;
* UGI failed to prevent an accidental ignition as the resident of 206 was permitted to start her vehicle and drive out of the garage on two occasions;
* UGI did not contact PPL to turn off the electricity on Springdale Lane until well after the explosion;
* UGI did not contact the local fire department for assistance until shortly before the explosion; and
* UGI's primary focus was to repair the leak instead of shutting off the gas supply.

The complaint says UGI's procedures should have directed the immediate closure of the nearest gas valve, and it should have directed UGI's dispatch to promptly contact 911 to notify the local fire department.

The gas company has 20 days to respond to the complaint. If UGI contests the complaint, the matter will proceed to a PUC administrative law judge for a hearing.

A UGI spokesman said the utility has cooperated fully with the PUC throughout its investigation of the incident and will continue to do so it reviews the complaint and responds within the specified time-frame. He said UGI remains fully committed to the safety of its customers and employees.

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