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UGI facing $2.1M fine for role in 2017 fatal gas blast in Pennsylvania

The investigative unit of Pennsylvania's utility regulatory body recommended that UGI Utilities Inc. pay a $2.09 million fine for its role in a deadly house explosion in 2017 caused by natural gas.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement on Oct. 4 filed a formal complaint against the UGI Corp. subsidiary for multiple violations of state code in its response to a gas odor call in a neighborhood near Lancaster in the southeastern part of the state. In its complaint, the bureau held UGI Utilities accountable for 19 counts of state code violations, saying UGI failed to follow its own safety procedures when employees responded to gas odor reports, and that the procedures themselves were lacking in terms of recognizing and managing gas leaks.

The explosion killed one UGI employee and injured three other people. It demolished one home and destroyed two neighboring houses as well, racking up estimated property damage of $1.3 million. Results of the investigation showed that the explosion was caused by an improperly installed mechanical tapping tee, or a device connecting a service line to a gas main, which leaked gas that entered the soil and sewer in the area.

SNL Image

UGI Utilities personnel kneeling in prayer near the site of the house explosion in Manor Township, Pa.

Source: Associated Press

"With the discovery of 98% gas-in-air over the tapping tee and 80% gas-in-air in the sewer, UGI's procedures should have directed immediate closure of the closest valve. Moreover, UGI's procedures should have directed UGI's dispatch to promptly contact 911 to notify the local department," the complaint said.

The bureau proposed a civil penalty of $209,002 per count, for a total of $3.97 million in penalties. However, the amount exceeds the state's cap for penalties, setting the final proposed fine at $2.09 million. UGI would also be required to make changes to its gas system safety procedures, provide education programs in its service territory and build a training facility for UGI personnel and the public.