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Pennsylvania PUC Approves Multiple Plans to Replace Aging NatGas Infrastructure Faster

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has approved the modified long-term infrastructure improvement plans (LTIIP) for Peoples Natural Gas, UGI Gas, UGI Penn Natural Gas and UGI Central Penn Gas that will allow the companies to more quickly replace aging infrastructure.

Peoples acquired Equitable Gas Co. LLC in 2012 from EQT Corp. (see Daily GPIDec. 21, 2012). Its modified five-year LTIIP allows it to accelerate the replacement of 37 miles of known cast iron pipelines acquired through that deal. Peoples proposes to replace all the bare steel and cast iron pipelines over a 20-year period.

The PUC also approved modified LTIIPs for the UGI companies. Those also detail accelerated infrastructure improvements that are intended to "enhance system resiliency," the PUC said. They allow the UGI companies to increase the amount of infrastructure spending over current levels by more than 20%.

In recent years, the commission has continued to challenge natural gas distribution companies across the state to accelerate the replacement of aging cast iron and unprotected steel pipelines to improve public safety and system reliability.

In a separate action, the PUC said it has tentatively approved a settlement with retail electric generation supplier IDT Energy Inc. for $6.75 million in consumer refunds and penalties for complaints that it deceptively marketed its variable electric rates during the brutally cold winter of 2013-2014. Known as the Polar Vortex, it was one of the nation's coldest winters in decades and sent demand for natural gas to record highs, causing price spikes.

As part of the settlement, IDT must modify its marketing and business practices. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's (AG) office announced the settlement last year (see Daily GPIAug. 10, 2015). The company has already voluntarily paid more than $4 million in customer refunds. IDT, a subsidiary of the publicly traded electricity and natural gas supplier Genie Energy Ltd., has operations in six states, including Pennsylvania.

The AG's office received hundreds of calls and complaints from consumers about dramatic spikes in the cost of their electricity during the Polar Vortex. The AG ultimately filed legal action against IDT, Pennsylvania Gas & Electric, Blue Pilot Energy, Resolve Power and Hiko Energy LLC. Some of those companies have already settled with the state.

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