The fine is the largest in state history, the IURC said, and the company may also have to pay additional penalties for violations it may commit going forward.
The civil penalties were recommended for NIPSCO’s failure 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. 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 IURC’s Pipeline Safety Division in carrying out its pipeline safety compliance activities.
The IURC order added that “… 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. Based on the evidence presented and the possible consequences that may occur as a result of being unable to accurately locate its facilities, it is imperative that NIPSCO use its resources to complete these reforms as soon as possible.”
All funds collected from approved civil penalties go directly to the state’s general fund.
The IURC’s Pipeline Safety Division has jurisdiction over intrastate pipelines operated and maintained by utilities such as NIPSCO. It is the division’s charge to ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal pipeline safety regulations. If a violation is identified, the Pipeline Safety Division investigates may request penalties. Properly responding to and locating pipelines is critical to avoiding property damage and personal injury potentially resulting from natural gas explosions, the IURC noted.