PUC Approves Settlement with Met-Ed Regarding 2016 Fatal Lehigh Valley Electrocution
Published on 2/4/2021
Filed under: Electric
Settlement includes Met-Ed’s implementation of extensive remediation measures, a significant civil penalty and contribution to hardship fund
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today approved a settlement with Metropolitan Edison Company (Met-Ed) stemming from a July 26, 2016, incident that claimed the life of Thomas Poynton of Northampton County.
The Commission voted 4-0 to adopt an Initial Decision by Administrative Law Judge Mary D. Long, which accepts a Joint Petition for Approval of Settlement between Met-Ed and the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement (I&E) and requires the following:
- Over $16 million in Met-Ed remediation measures – Implementation includes a new company program for the inspection and replacement of hotline clamps across its entire primary system, as well as enhancements to Met-Ed’s construction standards, inspection processes and safety standards; additional training for Met-Ed employees and company contractors; and a thorough review of the company’s emergency response preparedness.
- A $150,000 contribution to the company’s hardship fund - Hardship grants are dispersed on behalf of qualifying customers.
- Payment of a $1 million civil penalty – Civil penalty is not tax deductible and may not be passed through to Met-Ed’s Pennsylvania customers.
On July 22, 2019, I&E filed a formal complaint alleging that on July 26, 2016, a high-voltage conductor owned and operated by Met-Ed fell into the backyard of a residence along Royal Manor Road in Easton. Mr. Poynton, a resident of the home, stepped outside after hearing a loud explosion and was electrocuted when he encountered energized ground outside his home. The Poynton home was also damaged by a resulting fire.
Based on the investigation by I&E’s electric safety engineers, the complaint alleged that Met-Ed and its contractors used a series of “bronze hotline clamps” attached to the 34,500 volt transmission lines near the incident site – including the conductor that fell to the ground – which were intended for copper conductors, rather than the aluminum lines they were attached to. This was contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations and FirstEnergy’s (Met-Ed’s parent company) material specifications. Also, the company allegedly did not have procedures for the installation of the bronze hotline clamps.
The complaint also alleged that on the day of the incident, Met-Ed’s ground fault protection system ultimately failed, allowing the continued flow of electricity to the conductor after it fell to the ground.
About Electric Safety
Created in 2014, the Electric Safety Section of the Safety Division works to increase the safety of individuals working around power lines, including utility employees, contractors, construction workers and homeowners. Annually, an average of 24 serious injuries and six deaths occur in Pennsylvania involving individuals working around utility company power lines.
Additional general electric safety information and tips are listed on the PUC’s Electric Safety webpage under “Homeowner and Contractor Safety Information”.
About the Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement
As the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the PUC, I&E enforces state and federal regulations as it pertains to pipeline safety, electric safety, water safety, and Pa1Call Enforcement and motor carrier safety laws and regulations and represents the public interest in ratemaking and service matters before the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge. I&E Safety Division includes the Pipeline Safety Section, the Electric Safety Section and Motor Carrier Enforcement Division and has the authority to bring enforcement action, seek emergency orders from the Commission or take other steps to ensure public safety.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.
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Docket No.: C-2019-3011675
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