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Wash. regulator lowers Cascade penalty after utility addresses pipeline concerns

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission waived part of a penalty Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has to pay for pipeline safety violations, pointing to progress the company has made on safety improvements.

After the Washington commission, or UTC, found in 2016 in that Cascade was missing a number of important pipeline records, the commission in March 2017 penalized the company $2.5 million but offered to suspend $1.5 million of that if Cascade fixed the problems within certain deadlines.

Cascade has so far validated the safe operating pressure for five of its highest risk pipeline segments and prioritized validating additional segments' pressures based on risk factors, among other things, all within the settlement-specified timeline.

The company also reduced the operating pressure on pipelines for which the appropriate operating pressures were not validated, did leak surveys, stepped up its repair work, and incorporated certain at-risk segments into a transmission integrity management plan.

"The company has worked diligently to comply with the terms of the settlement and collaborated with staff to determine a reasonable timeline for validating [maximum allowable operating pressure] that advances public safety," the UTC's June 14 order said. "Through all of these actions, the company has demonstrated its commitment to compliance with the settlement."

The UTC decided to waive $500,000 of the outstanding $1.5 million of the penalty, noting that the remaining $1 million should "serve as a strong incentive" for Cascade to keep making progress on fulfilling its commitments.

Commission staff in 2016 found that the MDU Resources Group Inc. subsidiary did not have all the required documents for about 40% of its high-pressure pipelines in Washington state, a violation of state and federal pipeline safety laws. Specifically, Cascade had not maintained records related to the maximum allowable operating pressure for at least 116 pipeline segments, staff said.