NIPSCO receiving record $900,000 fine for pipeline safety violations
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission said Wednesday it has approved a settlement agreement between its Pipeline Safety Division and Northern Indiana Public Service Co. for the natural gas and electricity utility to pay $900,000 in a case in which the commission said it sees a lack of urgency in updating and modernizing natural gas pipeline maps and records.
NIPSCO agreed to the fine for past violations, the highest civil penalty in state history, as well as to provide information and ongoing reporting to the Pipeline Safety Division and the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, and to pay additional civil penalties for violations it may commit.
Merrillville-based NIPSCO said in a response that it recently terminated the contract with its existing utility locating company and hired new companies with additional oversight to improve the timeliness and accuracy of location requests.
The regulatory commission said the fine is for violations of state pipeline safety standards, which incorporate most federal pipeline safety standards.
“These include failures by NIPSCO to keep accurate maps and records of its underground facilities, and failure to locate its pipelines in two days as required by its own pipeline safety procedures,” a news release from the commission said. “In addition to a monetary fine, the settlement agreement also includes additional compliance actions, including reporting performance metrics applicable to locating its facilities, implementing a pipeline safety management system, and encouraging closer coordination between NIPSCO and the Pipeline Safety Division in carrying out their pipeline safety compliance activities.”
In addition, the order states, “… the Commission is extremely concerned that there does not appear to be a sense of urgency on behalf of NIPSCO to update and modernize its pipeline maps and records.”
Money from the fine will go into the state’s general fund.
All submitted documents relating to this case, including the Order approved by the IURC today, can be found on the IURC’s Online Services Portal at https://iurc.portal.in.gov/searchlegalcase and searching for Cause No. 44970.