The state Public Service Commission has issued a fine of $170,000 to a Magoffin County natural gas company that it says has violated safety rules repeatedly. The fine is the largest the PSC has ever levied for natural gas safety violations, according to a statement.
The commission ordered BTU Gas Co. Inc. to pay $10,000 of the fine within 30 days, but the PSC noted the remainder of the fine will be suspended for two years if the company corrects the 17 violations noted within 90 days and commits no more.
Among the violations are failure to have a map of the natural gas system, failure to regularly check the system for leaks or conditions that could lead to leaks, and failure to correct unsafe conditions in the system. The company also lacks records showing the location of safety valves and other safety devices, and lacks emergency equipment for employees.
The company's service territory includes 401 residential customers and 12 commercial customers including four schools.
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In its order, the commission said the utility has "consistently been poorly managed and operated. ... BTU has been in operation for approximately 16 years, yet its president presents herself as totally uninformed and unfamiliar with what is required."
BTU president and owner Pamela Williams could not be reached Monday.
The PSC's actions trace back to a July 2007 regularly scheduled inspection that found 16 violations of safety regulations. A follow-up inspection two years later found only six of the 16 violations had been corrected and also discovered seven more.
The utility will face annual inspections by the PSC for the next five years, a more frequent time frame than other utilities.
The PSC also noted that future violations will lead to actions against not just the company but also Williams and her husband, Richard Williams, the company's vice president and operator.