Nov. 21–State regulators have levied the first disciplinary actions against UGI, Metropolitan Edison and a host of other utilities and businesses statewide as part of a new utility safe-digging committee that hopes to head off dangerous mishaps.
UGI, the natural gas utility that serves the Lehigh Valley, was cited three times as facility owner on three projects performed last spring — two in Bethlehem and one in Easton. Here is a rundown:
* April 28: A landscaper struck a UGI line in the 300 block of Ninth Avenue in Bethlehem while digging with a mini-excavator. The excavator did work without obtaining permission via the statewide One Call system.
* May 4: A pipeline company struck a UGI line with a rock along North Seventh Street in Easton while repairing an emergency gas leak.
* May 7: A contractor struck a marked UGI gas line with hand-held digging tools while working in the 200 block of East Ettwein Street in Bethlehem.
Met-Ed, meanwhile, was listed as facility owner for an excavation May 4 along the 200 block of Larry Holmes Drive in Easton in which a contractor struck an underground electrical line using a backhoe. The contractor, which was hired by the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority, failed to use “prudent excavation techniques.”
The report, released earlier this month by the state Public Utility Commission, also said businesses or utilities involved in the local projects faced fines ranging from $250 to $1,300. Some violators received a warning letter. UGI and Met-Ed were not fined.
The PUC established a “Damage Prevention Committee,” as part of a 2017 state law designed to bolster Pennsylvania’s so-called “One Call Law.” The PUC, which enforces the law, said approximately 6,000 hits on underground utility lines happen across the state every year.
The goal of the committee, which plans to meet monthly, is to cut the number of incidents by 50 percent within the next five years and prevent catastrophes such as Allentown’s fatal natural gas explosion in February 2011 that led to some calls to strengthen the One Call safe-digging law.
UGI and Met-Ed spokesmen said Wednesday they support more stringent enforcement of One Call.
“Met-Ed will continue working with PA One Call, key stakeholders, and other utilities to ensure best practices when digging either near or around our facilities and for our facilities,” company spokesman Scott Surgeoner said.
The PUC filed 68 disciplinary actions statewide involving utilities, project owners, and contractors.
Find out about the disciplinary actions and more at www.puc.pa.gov.
For more information on the Pennsylvania One Call System, visit www.pa1call.org.
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