Indiana utility fined record $1.1M for pipeline safety violations

State regulators have fined Northern Indiana Public Service Co. more than $1 million—the largest in Indiana history—for pipeline safety violations the utility has faced twice in the previous four years.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered the natural gas supplier on Wednesday to pay $1.138 million in civil penalties for violations related to the company’s failure to locate or mark pipelines, as required, within two days of gas line excavations.

“Properly responding to and locating pipelines is critical to avoiding property damage and personal injury potentially resulting from natural gas explosions,” the utility commission said in its order.

The fine represents the third time since 2017 that the Merrillville-based utility has received a substantial fine for similar violations, the commission said.

The latest penalties cover 2019 violations. The commission’s order specifies that NIPSCO and its shareholders must absorb the fine’s expense and cannot pass that cost onto its customers.

The money NIPSCO will pay for the fine will go into Indiana’s general fund.

NIPSCO, which is Indiana’s largest natural gas provider, said in a statement that it would work to improve its pipeline locating efforts.

“We acknowledge the fine and pledge to continue correcting any issues pertaining to line locates,” NIPSCO said.

The utility added that it responds to and completes more than 450,000 requests in a single calendar year to locate natural gas lines, while the violation addresses 238 instances where NIPSCO “failed to locate or provide an accurate location for underground utilities when requested by someone doing excavation work.”

The utility said it was implementing a new pipeline safety management system, working to ensure its records were up-to-date and doing more training.

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