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ALBANY — The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) today adopted the terms of a joint proposal between Department of Public Service (Department) staff and National Grid’s upstate gas company regarding a natural gas explosion at 383 West Main Street, Little Falls that occurred on February 14, 2018.
“The joint proposal we have adopted holds utilities accountable for actions that may be in violation of Commission regulations,” said Commission Chair John B. Rhodes. “Utilities are required to provide safe and adequate service. This joint proposal creates systems and training to better ensure the utility’s safeguarding of customers, and thus compliance with Commission regulations.”
On February 14, 2018, a natural gas explosion and resulting fire occurred at 383 West Main Street in Little Falls. Because of the explosion, the house and all its contents were destroyed. A house directly adjacent was also destroyed along with its contents as a result of the explosion and the subsequent fire. Several other homes surrounding the incident were damaged by the explosion and its debris, and three people sustained minor injuries.
Department staff commenced an investigation and issued an incident report on November 6, 2018. Staff investigated the Little Falls explosion to identify the circumstances or conduct that led to the incident, and whether or to what extent the conduct of National Grid caused or contributed to the explosion. Although National Grid disputed wrongdoing, based on the findings of the investigation, the utility has agreed to enhance its operational, training, and programmatic practices and procedures.
Specifically, National Grid has modified its gas procedures at all three of its New York service territories to add a list of substandard conditions that will be addressed if discovered during an inside service line inspection, including addressing the absence of an inside seal at the wall penetration. Where no inside seal is observed by company contractors or employees during an inside service line inspection of a service line, the company will formally document and seal the gas pipe at the inside wall penetration. National Grid has also updated its training materials going forward and has trained its contractors and employees in applying the new procedures. This will affect both newly trained employees and contractors, as well as existing employees and contractors that are being requalified.
Going forward, the company will require that contractors performing inside service line inspections retain training records of contractor employees and that such records will be made available to, and subject to audit by, National Grid with the company’s commitment to periodically sample for contractor compliance. Likewise, National Grid will require contractors performing inside service line inspections to record training for contractor employees in the Northeast Gas Association tracking system. The company also agreed to change procedures for its downstate gas operations.
The agreement requires National Grid shareholders to pay $658,000 in incremental costs associated with the foregoing changes at least until rates are reset by the Commission in its next rate proceeding which will be no earlier than 2021. In exchange for these commitments, the parties agree that the joint proposal does not create any admission of liability on the part of National Grid, and the parties agree to forego litigation on the issue of the cause of the explosion.
An additional lawsuit filed by the homeowners who were affected by the explosion is still pending a resolution.