PUCO Fines Dominion $1 Million Following Investigation of Pepper Pike Incident



COLUMBUS, OHIO (July 1, 2020) – The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today approved a settlement agreement between Dominion Energy Ohio (Dominion) and PUCO staff regarding a gas pipeline incident in Pepper Pike, Ohio in November 2019.

In its investigative report, PUCO staff noted the cause of the incident was the failure of a 30-inch steel distribution main, that released natural gas into the atmosphere which subsequently ignited. The staff report concluded Dominion’s failure to follow established procedures, poor construction practices and lack of oversight contributed to the pipeline failure.

Under the terms of the agreement, Dominion developed an action plan, approved by PUCO staff, to improve its gas safety program. A third-party consulting firm will investigate and provide a root cause analysis within 90 days. Dominion and PUCO staff will review the analysis and determine an implementation plan. A third-party consultant will then evaluate Dominion’s adherence to the implementation plan to ensure the company adequately improves its processes and procedures. Finally, Dominion will pay a civil forfeiture of $1 million to the State of Ohio with an additional $500,000 that can be imposed by the Commission if it finds Dominion does not fulfill the terms of the settlement agreement or implementation plan.

The PUCO is committed to ensuring the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of Ohio’s natural gas pipeline systems. PUCO investigators inspect each natural gas pipeline system in the state at least once every two years and review records and procedures implemented by utilities. When violations are detected, the PUCO orders corrective action and may assess fines and other penalties.

Additional information regarding PUCO compliance actions is available on the PUCO website.

A copy of today’s Commission finding and order is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov by clicking on the link to Documents and Rules, then Docketing Information System (DIS), and searching case 19-2140-GA-GPS.

Background

On Dec. 12, 2019, PUCO staff filed a notice with the Commission detailing its initial investigation.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the Commission directed PUCO staff to formally investigate Dominion’s compliance with gas pipeline safety standards.

On Feb. 28, 2020, PUCO staff filed its investigative report.

On June 11, 2020, Dominion filed a joint stipulation, or settlement agreement, signed by PUCO staff and Dominion.

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