PUC Safety Division Investigating Natural Gas Service Disruptions and Service Restoration Efforts in Beaver County
Published on 10/17/2023
Filed under: Gas
Note: The following information is preliminary and may be supplemented or corrected as the investigation continues.
HARRISBURG – Pipeline safety engineers from the PUC’s Safety Division – which is part of the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) – are investigating an ongoing incident in Beaver County that has disrupted natural gas service to several thousand residents and businesses served by Columbia Gas.
Beaver County Gas Outage Investigation Overview
Late in the afternoon on Sunday, October 15, Columbia Gas notified the Safety Division of an event affecting two natural gas distribution systems in Beaver County – resulting in the interruption of service to approximately 4,000 customers in and around the communities of Baden, Conway, Economy Borough and Freedom.
Following the precautionary shut-down of service in this area, Columbia Gas crews have been working to purge their gas distribution system and then begin the safe restoration of service to individual customers. The Safety Division continues to monitor the ongoing purging and restoration efforts by crews from Columbia Gas.
The cause of the outage appears to involve a gas supply interruption from a third-party supplier, but the Safety Division investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident is ongoing – working to determine whether there are any violations of state or federal pipeline safety regulations – and the PUC has also been in communication with its federal pipeline safety counterparts at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Updates on the service restoration process, locations for a “warming station,” and additional information for impacted residents and businesses is being posted in the alert center on the Columbia Gas website.
PUC Safety Division Jurisdiction and Investigations
The Safety Division recognizes the strong public interest in these types of incidents, especially for those who have been directly impacted, and works to address safety concerns in a timely matter. Still, it is important to understand that these are complex circumstances which may require extensive analyses by engineers and other experts, or other technical study before conclusions can be reached.
Any determinations and/or actions are based on that information, within the scope of the PUC’s jurisdiction, and any safety concerns identified by investigators are addressed promptly with regulated pipeline operators and/or utilities.
The Safety Division appreciates the cooperation of emergency responders and officials in Beaver County, as well as the patience and cooperation of residents and businesses impacted by this incident.
About the Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement
Engineers from the Safety Division are in the field daily, conducting inspections of utility construction, operations, and integrity management activities. They also investigate issues discovered during their inspections, along with incidents reported by utility operators and emergency response agencies.
I&E, as the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the PUC, enforces state and federal pipeline safety 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 has the authority to bring enforcement action, seek emergency orders from the Commission or take other steps to enforce safety regulations and promote public safety.
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