State utility investigators on Thursday asked to impose a $2.1 million fine on UGI Utilities Inc. for alleged violations relating to a 2017 gas explosion in Lancaster County that leveled a house and killed a utility worker.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement filed a formal complaint against the utility, saying it had failed to properly react to a hazardous condition when its workers responded to a reported gas leak at a house in Millersville on July 2, 2017.
Rather than shut off the gas main feeding the entire neighborhood, which would have required a laborious process of reinstating service to numerous customers, UGI instead sought to "squeeze off" the gas main feeding the residence with the leak, the PUC's investigators said.
While workers were digging up the gas leak, the house exploded, killing Richard A. Bouder, 54, and injuring three other utility workers. The explosion damaged four other houses on the cul-de-sac, two of which were later condemned. UGI estimated that the accident caused $1.3 million in damage.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and traced the gas leak to a mechanical tap used for 19 years to connect the house to a two-inch diameter plastic gas main.
UGI Utilities, a subsidiary of UGI Corp. of Valley Forge, is one of the state's largest gas utilities.
The new complaint, which will be heard by the PUC, is the second time in recent years the regulatory agency has cited UGI Utilities for failures related to a fatal gas explosion.
The PUC in 2013 fined the company $500,000 — the maximum at the time — for a fatal 2011 Allentown blast that killed five people and destroyed eight homes. After the Allentown accident, the state legislature increased the maximum fine for a gas pipeline accident to $2 million. It has since been raised to $2.1 million.
The company is reviewing the new complaint and will respond within 20 days, Joseph Swope, UGI Utilities spokesperson, said in an email response.
"UGI Utilities has cooperated fully with the PUC throughout its investigation of this incident and will continue to do so as we review the complaint and respond to the PUC within the specified time frame," he said.
"UGI Utilities remains fully committed to the safety of our customers, employees, and residents of the many communities we serve," Swope said.