PUC Hosts ‘PA Operation Blue Flame 2018’; First-Ever Exercise Testing Response to Large-Scale Natural Gas Distribution Emergency
Published on 6/26/2018
Filed under: Gas
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) recently gathered emergency response agencies, utilities and human service organizations for PA Operation Blue Flame 2018 – a first-ever statewide exercise intended to test the state’s potential responses to and recovery from a large-scale disruption of natural gas service.
In collaboration with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and UGI Utilities, Inc., PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner John F. Coleman joined key Commission staff, along with representatives from numerous participating organizations, including: Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Enbridge, Inc., National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation, PECO Energy Company, Pennsylvania Department of Aging, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, Pennsylvania National Guard, Peoples Gas, Philadelphia Gas Works, PJM and the Westmoreland County Emergency Management Agency.
The PA Operation Blue Flame 2018 scenario explored issues related to a major natural gas disruption during the winter months, resulting in the interruption of natural gas service to numerous communities. The exercise tested how agencies would communicate with each other and coordinate a response to various related issues, including the impact of a long-term gas outage on gas-powered generators, residents, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure in Pennsylvania.
“This month’s exercise is part of an ongoing PUC collaboration with public and private sector organizations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from wide-reaching events impacting our energy systems,” said PUC Chairman Brown.
Commissioner Coleman noted that feedback from this type of exercise is especially helpful. “The lessons we learn during drills like this helps ensure that agencies and utilities work together more efficiently and effectively during real-world emergencies.”
“PEMA routinely holds exercises that test our capabilities and help us develop working relationships with other agencies, as well as our private sector partners,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn Jr. “These exercises are critical to helping us fine-tune our response and recovery efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of the Pennsylvanians we serve.”
Feedback from this exercise is being compiled by the PUC’s Bureau of Technical Utility Services to help guide future Commission activities concerning threats to critical utility systems, including natural gas, water, wastewater treatment, telecommunications and transportation services.
So-called “Black Sky” events – defined as extraordinary events capable of producing wide-reaching outages that last significantly longer than typical weather or operational incidents – are a major focus for the Commission.
PUC Chairman Brown was recently appointed to lead a national committee on critical infrastructure, and the Commission has joined with other state response agencies to host Black Sky exercises in 2016 and 2017.
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.
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