In the wake of an Aug. 21, 2004 gas explosion in Sandy Township, PA, that destroyed a home and left two residents dead, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Thursday modified a previous $80,000 settlement with National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. (NFG), bumping it up to $150,000.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the motion of PUC Chairman Wendell F. Holland to modify the joint settlement between PUC’s prosecutory staff and NFG. The joint settlement reflected a $50,000 civil penalty and directed the company to fund $30,000 in safety-related activities to its system (see Daily GPI, March 17). As part of the new motion, and in lieu of a $50,000 civil penalty, NFG will be required to direct $100,000 to the company’s Neighbor for Neighbor Heat Fund and spend $50,000 to fund safety related activities for its system.

“The Neighbor for Neighbor Heat Fund is a voluntary program designed to provide assistance to qualifying individuals who require aid to meet basic energy needs,” said Holland. “Directing $100,000 to this program will help prevent customers from being disconnected, give them assistance to help pay their overdue bills or allow them to purchase heating fuel or repair heating equipment.”

The tentative order follows an informal investigation of the gas explosion at 48 Woodland Lane in Sandy Township, Clearfield County. The explosion resulted from a leak in a gas line.

As a result, NFG has committed to system improvements that exceed $1.8 million and has agreed to address recommendations and ensure the overall safety and reliability of its distribution system by modifying its operating procedures and accelerating the plastic pipe leakage survey of its Pennsylvania system. The company has also retrained and tested its plastic fusion work crew members. The tentative order issued Thursday will become final in 15 days unless an appeal is filed.

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