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UGI denies allegations in fatal Millersville natural gas explosion

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UGI Utilities Inc. denied allegations made against it by state utility regulators that it failed to follow company procedures during a natural gas explosion that killed a worker and destroyed or damaged several homes last year in Millersville.

UGI filed its response Friday to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which had granted the Reading-based company a 25-day extension to respond to the commission’s Oct. 4 complaint.

UGI’s response was heavily redacted because the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident and prohibits UGI from releasing information related to the accident prior to the board’s public release of information. UGI said in its response the information is proprietary and confidential. The company and its attorney declined to comment beyond the filing

The complaint stems from a natural gas explosion that took place at 12:31 p.m. on July 2, 2017 at Springdale Farm, a residential development in Millersville. Three UGI workers were on the site at the time of the explosion. One worker died and two others sustained non-life threatening injuries, with one requiring hospitalization. A Lancaster Area Sewer Authority worker who was on the site also was injured and required hospitalization, the complaint said.

The explosion demolished the home at 206 Springdale Lane and caused severe damage to neighboring homes, according to the complaint. Property damage was estimated at $1.3 million.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission alleges that “UGI failed to follow its written, internal procedures on July 2, 2017, in that the actions taken by UGI employees were not prioritized to protect life and property and eliminated hazards” and that its “procedures in place at the time of the explosion were deficient, especially in recognizing and managing an underground blowing gas situation.”

The complaint said UGI's procedures "should have directed immediate closure of the closest valve" and "directed UGI's dispatch to promptly contact 911 to notify the local fire department."

The initial civil penalty was set at almost $4 million. However, that penalty exceeds the statutory maximum, according to the PUC complaint, which was filed by the agency's bureau of investigation and enforcement. The requested total civil penalty is about $2.1 million.

In addition to levying a fine, the PUC is asking UGI to revise its policies and procedures, as well as to build a training facility for its workers, contractors, emergency responders and the public.

The case will be assigned a PUC administrative law judge and a pre-hearing conference will be held where the attorneys for all parties will discuss the litigation schedule.

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