Cascade Natural Gas accepts $425,000 fine, won't pass it on to customers

A two-year investigation reportedly turned up 364 alleged violations of gas safety rules.

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Cascade Natural Gas will pay a $425,000 fine for pipeline safety violations, but won't pass the penalty to customers through higher rates, under a settlement agreement with state regulators announced Friday.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission said Kennewick-based Cascade must also take timely actions to meet UTC regulations to avoid up to $1.8 million in additional penalties.

"We feel strongly that our pipeline system is safe, but we recognize that we have not met all of the requirements to document those safety actions," said Mark Hanson, a spokesman for Cascade, in the Tri-City Herald.

The settlement is a response to a complaint filed in March by UTC staff alleging serious safety violations of gas safety rules. A two-year investigation reportedly turned up 364 alleged violations of gas safety rules, including failure to complete corrosion control monitoring in Walla Walla within the required period of time.

Other violations allegedly occurred along the company's more than 4,400 miles of natural gas pipelines throughout the state, UTC staff reported.

Cascade must complete eight action items identified in the complaint to avoid the additional penalties. The company must review its pressure control layout and develop cold-weather operating procedures, revise its leak evaluation procedures and improve and update its pipeline maps.

"In this industry, incomplete or inaccurate records present a substantial risk to public safety," the ruling of the three commissioners said. "The magnitude of the penalty being assessed against Cascade indicates the seriousness with which the commission views violations of gas pipeline safety rules, and record-keeping rules in particular."

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