A former Colorado Natural Gas employee found state and federal code violations in the way his home was converted from propane to natural gas, and he says he’s worried that thousands of other homes around Conifer and Evergreen have similar mistakes.
Eric Allen, of Conifer, took those concerns about his own home to the Public Utilities Commission, and in late June, the regulatory agency levied a $1.125 million fine that CNG would have to pay if the mistakes weren’t fixed. The PUC field inspector found “numerous former propane lines” being used to carry natural gas, which served as evidence that the home hadn’t been properly leak-surveyed in recent years as required by law.
“Evaluation of the information gathered during the course of this inspection has led to the uncertainty of the entirety of CNG’s Colorado assets,” according to the field inspector’s report. “Further inspection of these assets is warranted.”
CNG said it initiated a systemwide audit of the Conifer area that included 1,932 locations and identified 77 service lines for replacement, 49 of which still need to be completed.
Colorado Natural Gas is conducting leak surveys and replacing lines in the mountain area after an investigation by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission Pipeline Safety Program revealed the company had been using old propane lines to deliver natural gas to customers.
The violation, first revealed by Eric Allen, a Conifer customer and former CNG employee, is problematic for a number of reasons, including the fact that propane yard lines are meant to carry less pressure, and natural gas lines are required to be accompanied by a tracer wire, which helps locate the line.
In addition to hiring third-party inspectors to audit all locations in the Conifer area, NPV required Colorado Natural Gas to identify service lines to replace. After inspecting the lines in Conifer and Evergreen, Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for Summit Utilities, said 77 service lines were identified for replacement. Of those, 28 replacements are complete and the remaining 49 have been scheduled. Letters explaining the problem should hit customers’ mailboxes within the week.
The company doesn’t deny wrongdoing, but it says the issue is an old one. According to Kurt Adams, president and Chief Executive Officer of Summit Utilities Inc., the parent company of Colorado Natural Gas, the propane lines began serving natural gas in 2005, when the company was under different leadership.