UGI, You Ain’t Got No Alibi

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Explosion, by Flickr user Freidwall, licensed using Creative Commons.

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Pennsylvania-based utilities company, UGI, and the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement have submitted a joint settlement regarding a deadly 2011 Allentown natural gas explosion.  UGI has agreed to pay $386,000, the maximum fine possible.  They also need to increase their efforts to replace cast-iron pipeline that played a role in the tragic incident.  The natural gas explosion killed five people, injured dozens, and destroyed numerous homes.  The investigation following the event alleged that UGI had ignored warning signs for the explosion.  Had they been addressed the catastrophe could have been prevented.

The settlement requires UGI to infuse an odor into its natural gas which will enable customers to detect future leaks.  The replacement of the pipes, which were originally planned on being finished in 2051, must now be completed by 2027 and will cost the company $18 million annually. In order to increase safety $2 to $4 million will be paid for monitoring equipment.

Senator Lisa Boscola, an advocate for pipeline safety, has publicly acknowledged the company’s cooperation and willingness to pay the high price of reform. Victims of the blast, however, are not as quick to accept UGI’s admission.  “I’d say that should be 10 years at the maximum,” said former Allentown resident Bill Yanett regarding UGI’s 14-year replacement timeline. Yanett, who had lived on the block where the blast happened, has since moved to Whitehall Township with his wife. Their new home does not have natural gas.

I am obviously not an engineer and could not even begin to fathom what goes into planning a pipeline overhaul within a community, but that being said if it was my house and safety at risk I would not be pleased either.  If I were an Allentown resident and customer of UGI Utilities Inc., I would also have followed suit with the Yanetts and my fellow neighbors.