PSC Staff says Mountaineer Gas acted “appropriately and reasonable” following November major natural gas outage on Charleston’s West Side

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The staff of the state Public Service Commission has determined Mountaineer Gas acted appropriately and reasonable last November when thousands of gallons of water from A water line break filled the utility’s lines on Charleston’s West Side creating natural gas outages for hundreds of customers.

Mountaineer Gas worked to dry out its lines on Charleston’s West Side. (Photo/MetroNews)

The PSC opened a general investigation in January to determine how the utility responded. The commission’s staff posted its recommendation Wednesday afternoon.

“Staff determines Mountaineer’s maintenance and response were very appropriate and reasonable given the size of the event, and they diligently worked to safely restore gas service,” Staff Attorney Chris Howard wrote. “Mountaineer acted according to their written emergency procedures, other written procedures, as well as Federal pipeline safety regulations, to promptly address the gas outage and safely restore service while protecting the safety of customers, their employees, and the public. Staff recommends this matter be closed.”

The PSC will enter a final order in the case at a later date.

Meanwhile, a separate general investigation into West Virginia American Water Company’s role in the outage continues. The PSC entered an order Wednesday extending the due date for the staff final memorandum until July 24. The PSC also granted a motion to allow the Consumer Advocate Division to intervene in the general investigation of the water company.

MORE Read Joint Staff Memorandum here

In the Staff Memorandum in the Mountaineer Gas investigation, the staff determined the Nov. 10, 2023 event was not a typical gas emergency because there was no release of gas.

“Mountaineer had to visit each customer to turn off the gas service, and revisited each customer to restore service and make sure that the customers gas equipment and appliances were functional,” the memorandum said. “Mountaineer had to unearth gas pipelines at over 300 locations to remove water, and then repair those locations according to pipeline safety regulations.”

Moses Skaff

Mountaineer Gas Senior Vice President Moses Skaff said the recommendation from the PSC staff speaks for itself.

“We have said all along that this was not a routine natural gas outage. I’ve said I’ve never seen anything like this in my 33 years in the gas industry,” Skaff told MetroNews. “Our main goal was to provide safe, reliable natural gas service to our customers in the community and to take care of customers above and beyond.”

Mountaineer Gas paid for and replaced dozens of hot water tanks and furnaces that were destroyed when water shot through residential gas lines.

The PSC Staff credited Mountaineer for bringing in many crews from outside the area to work 10 to 12 hour days to restore service. The utility has also continued to perform leak controls in the area, the Staff memorandum said.

Wednesday’s filing also includes the final recommendations from the PSC’s Gas Pipeline Safety Division and the Commission’s Legal Division.

The pipeline safety division said the outage was created by “an unfortunate chain of events.”

“Mountaineer’s maintenance and response were very appropriate and reasonable given the size of the event, and they diligently worked to safely restore gas service,” the safety division wrote.

The legal division also said Mountaineer’s response was appropriate.

“Mountaineer acted according to their written emergency procedures, other written procedures as well as Federal pipeline safety regulations to promptly address the gas outage and safely restore service while protecting the safety of customers, their employees, and the public,” the legal staff said.

There remain several lawsuits filed on behalf customers in connection with the outage and response. Mountaineer Gas and West Virginia Water have also disagreed on who is to blame for the outage.





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