Gas utilities in Pennsylvania are cited for dozens of safety violations a year, but they rarely face fines or public disclosure, according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the last five years, the Public Utility Commission has levied just 17 fines for safety violations, as for all the other safety cases, they're a secret between the utilities and the PUC, the report states. The agency won't tell the public what happened, or where, or whether the public was placed at risk. It won't even identify the utilities involved.
With only 8 gas-safety inspectors responsible for 46,000 miles of pipelines, along with other natural gas facilities, the PUC says its goal is to correct safety problems quickly, not to punish or embarrass Utilities.
But last week, the PUC filed a public complaint against Philadelphia Gas Works, alleging safety violations in one high-profile case, the fatal gas explosion in the Taxony section of Philadelphia in January. It is calling for the maximum $500,000 fine, a record for gas safety cases. That's far harsher than the typical penalty, the report states. In Pennsylvania, the gas-safety cases can drag on for as long as five years and result in an average settlement of $47,000.
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