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November 29, 2012

Vectren fined $100,000 over New Albany gas explosion

IURC finds that company damaged a gas line while drilling

EVANSVILLE — State utility officials have ordered Vectren Corp. to pay a $100,000 fine and make safety improvements over a natural gas explosion last year that destroyed a New Albany home and injured six people.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission issued the order Wednesday after the agency’s review of actions leading up to the November 2011 explosion in New Albany. The agency found that crews for a subsidiary of Evansville-based Vectren Corp. damaged the gas line while doing drilling work and didn’t alert emergency officials before the explosion an hour later.

The utility commission fined Vectren for not following proper boring protocol and failing to following notification and investigation standards.

Vectren spokeswoman Chase Kelley told the Evansville Courier & Press that the utility has made safety changes to reduce the possibility of similar problems in the future.

Kelley said those changes written into company documents add specific enforcement provisions and spell out to contractors the importance of following Vectren’s policies and procedures.

“The bottom line is we take full responsibility for the event that happened,” Kelley said.

The utility commission’s order said Vectren isn’t allowed to recover any part of the fine from its customers.

Only one of the five residents and one utility worker hurt in the explosion needed overnight hospitalization.

The commission said utility workers detected the odor of gas at 3:15 p.m. but didn’t follow proper procedures and alert emergency personnel until 4:20 p.m., after the line had exploded in the city just north of Louisville, Ky.

Vectren officials told the commission that crew members believed they could repair the line and made a judgment error in not calling emergency agencies.

Vectren provides natural gas service to about 700,000 customers across much of southern and Central Indiana.

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