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Southwest Gas fined $300,000 for 2 natural gas leaks

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Southwest Gas fined $300,000 for 2 natural gas leaks

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 11 approved a $300,000 fine on Southwest Gas Corp. in connection with two natural gas leak incidents that took place in Las Vegas in 2016.

The penalty for violation of federal pipeline safety regulations is one of the highest assessed against a utility, said Public Utilities Commission Chairman Joe Reynolds, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The utility had had similar incidents when lower penalties were assessed and the high fine is expected to serve as an incentive for Southwest Gas to "correct problems that led to the incidents," the report said, citing PUC staff.

The first incident occurred on July 26, 2016, when a Southwest Gas construction crew hit a polyethylene pipeline with a backhoe, resulting in the loss of service to about 3,520 customers and the evacuation of 30 homes. No injuries or deaths were reported.

The second incident occurred Sept. 27, 2016, when a contractor working on behalf of Nevada Department of Transportation hit a Southwest Gas high pressure steel gas main, causing a natural gas leak that disrupted service to six consumers. No injuries or deaths resulted from the incident.

The regulatory operations staff, after an investigation, asserted that the utility committed several violations, among them a failure to maintain and possess accurate maps of its subsurface natural gas facilities, which contributed to the incident. Despite disagreements with a number of assertions given, the utility later responded by agreeing to, among other things, improve its mapping activities.