UTC staff reach agreement with city of Enumclaw on natural gas system safety violations

Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of the pipeline safety staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses a staff recommendation that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.

UTC staff reach agreement with city of Enumclaw on natural gas system safety violations

City faces stiff penalty for failure to comply with terms of agreement

OLYMPIA, Wash. – State pipeline regulators have reached an agreement with the city of Enumclaw over a complaint lodged against the city for numerous safety violations in operating its natural gas utility.

Staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and the city of Enumclaw agreed to a detailed plan that calls for the city to comply with state laws for improving the operations of its natural gas distribution system. If approved, the city could face all or part of a $1.97 million penalty if it fails to meet the terms of the agreement.

“A gas pipeline company’s maintenance of complete and updated records is a foundation for pipeline safety,” UTC staff wrote in a narrative filed with the agreement. “The revised procedures, once implemented and used by gas safety personnel, are appropriate and are intended to provide the framework to maintain and operate a safe gas system.”

The three-member commission is not bound by the staff recommendation and could elect to accept, modify or reject the settlement. The UTC is expected to make a final decision this summer.

In the proposed settlement, the city agreed to a comprehensive plan to address the operations and maintenance of its natural gas pipeline, including:

· Documenting regular repairs or inspections on the pipeline;

· Updating maps and an operations manual;

· Providing required safety training to employees;

· Conducting routine inspections for corrosion;

· Maintaining accurate gas-leak records;

· Reporting underground damage to pipes;

· Performing pressure tests; and

· Developing a quality-assurance program for safety-related activities.

UTC staff filed a complaint in February against the city of Enumclaw citing violations of gas safety rules and recommending penalties. A 2008 inspection revealed numerous unsafe conditions that UTC staff had identified in earlier inspections.

Enumclaw is one of three cities in the state to manage its own natural gas system. The others are Buckley and Ellensburg. The city supplies natural gas to more than 4,000 customers. The city council, not the UTC, sets the natural gas rates for its residential, business and industrial customers.

The UTC monitors the city’s compliance with federal and state pipeline safety regulations for Enumclaw’s nearly 88 mile natural-gas distribution system in Washington. The commission has the authority to levy fines against operators found out of compliance. UTC pipeline safety staff perform regular inspections of the state’s 26 pipeline operators.

Editor’s note: A copy of the settlement agreement is available on the UTC Web site:

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