CALL 6: MetroNet subcontractors fined, warned following gas line damage

INDIANAPOLIS -- State regulators are punishing contractors they say are responsible for damaging gas lines in Hamilton County over the spring and summer of 2017.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Pipeline Safety Division decided Wednesday to issue fines to two companies, and the four others will receive warning letters or mandatory training, or both.

Vectren Corporation, headquartered in Evansville, will have to pay $6,000 in civil penalties for failing to properly mark gas lines.

International Inc. Corporation, based in Michigan, must pay $13,500 in civil penalties.

An investigation by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission found International Inc. was the MetroNet subcontractor responsible for hitting gas lines in the Fox Run subdivision in Fishers on August 24 and on S. Walnut Street in Westfield on September 8, as well as several other incidents.

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The contractors have 90 days  to pay the fine. 

“If fines are not paid, it will be sent to the Indiana Office of Attorney General for collection,” said Stephanie Hodgin, IURC spokesperson.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission launched an investigation after 20 reports of damage to gas lines in Fishers and Carmel.

The IURC found four other out-of-state MetroNet subcontractors responsible for gas line damage, but those contractors received warnings letters, mandatory training, or both.

Penalties:
•    Crosier Lane Consulting – warning letter and mandatory training
•    International Inc. Corporation – $13,500 in civil penalties
•    RC Underground, LLC – warning letter
•    Nexgen Directional, LLC – warning letter
•    Radical Concepts, LLC d/b/a Palindrome Construction – warning letter and mandatory training
•    Vectren – $6,000 in civil penalties

The subcontractors are facing other penalties as well.

The Indiana Attorney General filed a lawsuit against five of MetroNet’s excavators accused of performing work without proper authorization.

Curtis Hill’s office filed suit in Hamilton County on October 16 against Crosier Lane Consulting (Illinois), International, Inc. (Michigan), Nexgen Directional (Illinois), RC Underground (Florida) and RLM Underground (Kansas).

Failing to register with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office can result in a $10,000 fine per company, and the matter has been referred to the Indiana Attorney General for review.

Vectren released the following statement regarding the fine:

“Vectren continues to be aggressively focused on performance improvement relative to damage prevention. Our public awareness program continues to educate homeowners, excavators, first responders, and HVAC and plumbing providers about the importance of “call before you dig” and general public safety. We have seen the locate ticket volume increase 25% from 2015 to 2017. With increased volumes, quality has improved along with it. The total number of damages and our damage rate are both trending downward.”

Yesterday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) finalized decisions regarding notices of probable violations recently issued to Vectren Energy Delivery (Vectren) and excavation activities by contractors working on behalf of MetroNet, a high-speed internet provider that resulted in damage to Vectren’s underground facilities.  As the owner/operator of the facilities, fines are directed to Vectren, which will then decide whether some of the fines should be reimbursed by the contractor that performs facility locates on the company’s behalf.  Vectren is dedicated to the safe and reliable operation of its system and has devoted significant resources over the past few years to safety initiatives designed to reduce damage to its facilities. In fact, Vectren’ s facility damage rate has improved by 40% over the past five years, placing the utility in top quartile nationwide when compared to other utilities. Vectren is committed to improving its performance by continuing to work with customers, excavators, emergency responders, peer utilities and elected officials on the importance of safe digging.  
 

MetroNet has since updated its safety and training procedures.
A few of the enhancements to MetroNet’s safety plan:
•    They require all contractors to provide documentation regarding their weekly safety training programs.
•    They require all construction project managers and engineers to participate in the Safe Dig Indiana training sponsored by the IURC or similar training.
•    They formed a Safety Committee of senior executives that reviews safety performance and strike reports.
•    They added a position to their existing safety team, Director of Safety and Quality Assurance, to focus on safe excavation and construction practices.
•    They are increasing participation in industry groups such as Indiana Damage Prevention Council, Common Ground Alliance, and IURC Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Group.

RELATEDCALL 6: Thousands of gas lines damaged every year in Indiana

In 2016 the IURC investigated 2,113 damages to natural gas lines in Indiana to determine if they violated Indiana’s “Call Before you Dig” law.

Thus far in 2017, IURC has received 1,349 reports of damage to gas lines, records show.
That’s the equivalent to more than five incidents every single day.

Over the last three years, the IURC has assessed nearly $3 million in fines to excavators and operators for violations of the “Call Before You Dig” law.

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