Maine regulators approve $25,000 fine for natural gas company over safety violations

IndustriesAssociated Press

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday signed off on a $25,000 fine for a natural gas company for safety violations.

Summit Natural Gas, which is expanding its reach in southern and central Maine, reached a consent decree that reduced the fine from $100,000 following violations that included using contractors without proper qualifications to install natural gas pipelines.

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The consent decree was approved during the last deliberations for PUC Chairman Tom Welch, who's stepping down at year's end.

Summit's expansion includes a $350 million effort to connect 15,000 homes and businesses in the Kennebec Valley within five years. This year, the company is also working in Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth, where it pledged to spend $73 million to hook up 80 percent of the homes.

The Portland Press Herald reported that three other probable-violation notices issued by the agency for work done by Summit or its contractors are still pending.

In one case, Summit was accused of installing natural gas mains too close to other underground utilities, damaging sewer lines in the process. The agency is recommending a $150,000 fine in that instance.

Welch is stepping down effective Dec. 31, two years before his term was set to expire. His resignation will come just before fellow commissioner David Littell's term is set to expire in March.