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Ohio Regulator Orders LDCs to Inspect Risers

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) last week approved the recommendations of its staff outlining a natural gas riser safety policy. All Ohio natural gas distribution companies (LDC) are to begin implementing the guidelines immediately.

The PUCO told LDCs to conduct a full inventory of all gas risers in their service areas. A natural gas riser connects a building's outside gas meter to the piping that runs from the building to the LDC's pipelines. While some LDCs have completed this inventory, others have not. Each LDC must develop a plan with PUCO staff for completing a riser inventory in a reasonable manner.

LDCs must track and monitor all riser leak failures and report all failures to PUCO staff semiannually. LDCs are also instructed to incorporate riser installation into their company operator qualification requirements and include customer-owned service line failures in their investigation procedures. LDCs that fail to comply with the PUCO directives may be fined.

The commission's finding and order does not decide issues related to the ownership and repair of customer-owned service lines or financial issues, including the reimbursement of customers who have undertaken repairs of their risers or service lines. These issues can only be addressed on a company-by-company basis, and several LDCs have initiated related cases before the PUCO.

The PUCO ordered a statewide investigation involving all LDCs on April 13, 2005 to examine the type of risers being installed, the conditions of installation and overall riser performance. The PUCO contracted the University of Akron's Polymer and Mechanical Engineering department and Akron Rubber Development Laboratory (ARDL) to complete a study of the issues.

In a report filed on Nov. 24, 2006, PUCO staff presented the results from testing of risers conducted by ARDL. The report indicated that some risers may be susceptible to leaks. The Ohio Consumers' Counsel and LDCs including Columbia Gas of Ohio, Dominion East Ohio, Duke Energy Ohio and Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio filed comments on the staff report (see NGI, March 26, 2007).

In January 2007 PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber issued two letters to Ohio's LDCs, urging them to repair or replace any riser that may pose a threat or be susceptible to leaks (see NGI, Jan. 8, 2007).

The finding and order is available at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter case number 05-463-GA-COI.

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