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National Grid to spend $2M on safety improvements to settle NY explosion case

National Grid USA agreed to pay $1.98 million to resolve a case with New York state regulators stemming from a 2015 gas explosion that injured two people.

The settlement funds will be split between two programs, with $1.48 million to be spent on installing excess flow valves and the remaining $500,000 dedicated to educating contractors and homeowners on gas safety. The New York State Public Service Commission approved the settlement June 14.

The February 2015 incident occurred when workers were doing demolition work in a home on Long Island and struck a gas service line. No one was living in the home at the time, and the former customers had asked the utility to shut off the gas service. Although National Grid subsidiary KeySpan Gas East Corp. closed the former owner's account, it did not lock the gas service at the house.

In investigating the explosion, Public Service Commission staff found that National Grid committed two violations leading up to the incident; the company had not properly shut off the gas when asked and did not follow its own procedures for discontinuing gas service.

Rather than penalizing the company with a fine, the settlement aims to advance safety on the National Grid system using the company shareholders' money, the PSC said in a June 14 news release. Excess flow valves, which National Grid will install under the settlement, restrict the flow of gas when the valves detect abnormal gas movement. "If one had been in place at 21 Old Country Road, the impacts of the explosion would likely have been reduced or avoided altogether," the PSC said.

National Grid in a May filing welcomed the public safety improvements the settlement provisions should bring. The company noted that damage to gas facilities by third parties, such as contractors or homeowners doing renovations, is a "frequent and dangerous occurrence" and said the public education program could help prevent these types of incidents.

The education program is expected to include direct mail to residents and small contractors in addition to in-person training and education sessions. The PSC described the planned program as "unprecedented" and said the commission would consider expanding it to other New York jurisdictions it if it proves successful.

In addition to the safety investments, National Grid agreed to report to the PSC on process improvements to address inactive accounts, including updates the company is making to call center procedures, system and process improvements, and training.