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Cuomo: National Grid reaches $21M settlement in gas pipeline probe

National Grid runs the gas distribution network on

National Grid runs the gas distribution network on Long Island with about 600,000 customers. Above, workers install a new regulator and main near Nassau Community College in 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

New York State has reached a $21 million settlement with National Grid after an investigation that uncovered safety issues with natural gas pipes in Northport and Commack.

The settlement was approved Thursday by the state Public Service Commission, according to the announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

"Today's settlement is a major victory for New Yorkers and puts utilities on notice — the state will continue to hold utilities accountable when they do not comply with our safety rules and blatantly put lives at risk," Cuomo said in a statement.

The Public Service Commission, which overseas state utility companies, cited repeated violations of safety regulations designed to prevent corrosion from invading underground gas pipelines.

"As a result of these commission-led gas safety investigations, we will ensure that our gas utilities will focus efforts on ensuring that the gas distribution system is safe and reliable, and utilities that fail to do that will pay a steep financial price," PSC Chair John B. Howard said in a statement.

Investigators found corrosion-prevention measures were inadequate at National Grid facilities in Northport and Commack.

A separate investigation by the PSC found that National Grid failed to inspect gas infrastructure work by its contractors at required intervals and that it allowed work to be done by plastic fusers and plastic fusion inspectors, who were unqualified for the work.

A statement by National Grid acknowledged the compliance issues, but said controls have been put in place to avoid such problems in the future.

"Immediate action was taken to address these matters and improve procedures to reduce the risk of reoccurrence," the statement said. "National Grid agreed to a combined settlement of $21 million that will be used to offset the cost of energy efficiency and demand response programs to reduce gas usage in downstate New York."

National Grid runs the gas distribution network on Long Island with about 600,000 customers. The utility, whose parent company, National Grid PLC, is based in London, also owns Long Island power plants in Northport, Port Jefferson, Island Park and several other localities.

Earlier this month, the utility's 1,150 unionized workers voted to approve a four-year contract, averting a possible strike.

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