By Megan Hart
Kansas Gas Service will pay a $7,000 penalty, which is half of what was initially recommended, because of problems with locating underground gas lines.
The Kansas Corporation Commission approved two penalties, of $3,250 and $3,750, related to incidents in the Kansas City metropolitan area. KCC had previously approved $14,000 in penalties, but KGS petitioned for reconsideration.
KGS cited an unusually high number of requests to locate gas lines in Johnson and Wyandotte counties as mitigating circumstances. Work laying fiber-optic cable for Internet access drove the increase, and KGS estimated requests were up 125 percent in certain months, according to documents filed with the KCC.
“While Kansas Gas Service does not dispute the issues cited by the Kansas Corporation Commission related to timely pipeline locates, there were extenuating circumstances that resulted in this penalty order,” KGS spokeswoman Dawn Ewing said. “The fiber network expansion in the Johnson and Wyandotte County areas has resulted in an unprecedented increase in locate requests.”
The three commissioners unanimously approved cutting the penalty amount, but Commissioner Jay Emler made a statement about his concerns before voting in favor of the change.
“If you’ve got to hire more employees or a contractor, you get it done,” he said. “The law is what it is.”
Gas utilities have to provide accurate information about where their lines are within two days because of the danger if a contractor struck a line and caused a release of natural gas. KCC documents said staff received notifications on 28 occasions between September 2014 and May 2015 that KGS either had incorrectly marked where lines were, or didn’t provide the information within the required time. No one was injured, and the only damage was to the gas lines.
KCC staff reported they had found 149 instances of noncompliance related to KGS in the past two years. They didn’t indicate whether that was substantially different from other gas utilities operating in Kansas.
Ewing said KGS has already made changes, including holding meetings with telecommunication subcontractors to prepare for upcoming locating needs and assigning staff to trouble issues related to telecommunications. A locating contractor also has added staff and increased hours to meet demand, she said.
“The growth and development in communication and data transfer capabilities benefits our community and Kansas Gas Service will continue to work closely with other utility providers to coordinate locate activities to accommodate this growth,” she said.
Information from cjonline.com