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MPSC concludes investigation into Consumers Energy 2019 fire, utility company agrees to pay fine

Consumers Energy
Posted at 12:29 PM, May 08, 2020

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. — The Michigan Public Service Commission announced it has completed its investigation into the Jan. 31, 2019 fire at Consumers Energy's Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County, which led to a statewide natural gas emergency amid a polar vortex cold snap.

"The commission's order accepts the findings of the MPSC's Gas Safety Staff investigation, filed in January 2020, that the root cause of the Ray fire was grounding interference on the electrical system of the facility, which led to automated "blowdown" procedures in which natural gas is released to the atmosphere to protect worker and public safety," the commission said in a press release.

The commission said combined with record-low temperatures and high winds covering the state, the natural gas did not disperse as it typically would and came into contact with nearby plant equipment that operates at a high temperature which ignited the airborne gas and caused the fire. Because of that, MPSC staff cited a violation of federal safety standards during the emergency shut down of a compressor station because the discharged gas created a hazard, the commission said.

MPSC Staff and Consumers Energy resolved an enforcement action associated with the alleged violation and the utility company agreed to pay a $10,000 fine, the commission said.

The fine represents the maximum amount allowed by law and was approved by the commission Friday, the commission said.

Consumers Energy must also submit a final systemwide evaluation of blowdown systems by June 1, 2020 to document mitigation of any existing risks on the system, the commission said.

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