A state commission approved a settlement agreement Monday that will require Cascade Natural Gas, based in Kennewick, to pay a $1 million penalty for pipeline safety violations.
The agreement includes an additional $1.5 million in penalties, which will not be collected if the company makes required improvements.
“Work is already under way and we are committed to meeting the plan requirements,” said Mark Hanson, Cascade spokesman.
Cascade has about 2,,000 residential and business customers in Washington, including customers in Benton and Franklin counties and much of the rest of the Mid-Columbia.
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In July, the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission safety staff said that Cascade could not provide documentation for nearly 40 percent of its high-pressure pipelines in the state.
The staff issued a report that said Cascade demonstrated “a lax attitude toward compliance that exposes the public to an unacceptable level of risk” and recommended the commission impose the maximum penalty of $4 million.
Cascade recognizes the importance of having accurate records and is committed to achieving compliance through the settlement agreement.
Mark Hanson, Cascade Natural Gas spokesman
Instead, Cascade and the commission’s safety staff reached an agreement in December. Cascade agreed to a $2.5 million penalty, with $1.5 million suspended if it makes improvements on schedule.
“We view the settlement agreement as a compromise of each side’s positions, but one that assures continued public safety and allows Cascade to achieve the agreed-upon milestones,” Hanson said.
The compliance program requires Cascade to validate the maximum allowable operating pressure for pipelines operating above 60 pounds-per-square-inch gauge, focusing on high-risk pipelines.
It also requires Cascade to submit a third-party audit evaluating the company’s pipeline safety management program.
“Cascade recognizes the importance of having accurate records and is committed to achieving compliance through the settlement agreement,” Hanson said.
Cascade has 10 business days to pay the $1 million penalty.
Although the settlement agreement requires progress reports on validating pipeline pressure every six months, commissioners are requiring additional notification if significant changes occur.