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Columbia Gas agrees to $110K fine for pipeline problems

| Thursday, June 5, 2014, 4:45 p.m.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania will pay $110,000 to settle allegations it allowed excessive pressure in gas pipelines and other dangerous situations in nine unrelated incidents the state Public Utility Commission investigated.

The Washington County-based company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement disclosed on Thursday but agreed to make changes in training and in equipment that regulates gas pressure in some pipelines. The commission agreed to forgo a formal investigation.

“We always evaluate the costs and risks involved in potential litigation and make appropriate business decisions,” said Columbia spokeswoman Rachel Ford said of the settlement. She declined further comment on the deal until the commission approves it.

The incidents that occurred between 2011 and 2013 in Allegheny, Washington, Somerset, Fayette and Centre counties “resulted in an increased danger to the public,” the settlement states. “The parties note, however, that no loss of life or personal injury occurred in connection with any of the matters set forth.”

The commission received separate complaints on each incident and consolidated them into one case, said PUC spokeswoman Robin Tilley.

According to the settlement, the incidents involved:

• Uninspected valves on a line in Chartiers that caught fire when an excavator struck it;

• Excessive gas pressure in transmission pipelines and other systems in South Fayette, Scenery Hill, Connellsville, Dunbar, State College and Somerset County;

• A bad valve on a damaged pipe in Collier;

• Communications problems between staff during several incidents.

The state Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate and the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement have 20 days to comment on the agreement before the commission approves.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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