Company Fined $1.6M for Pipeline Violations


National Grid, a multinational electricity and gas utility company, has recently been fined $1.6 million by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ Pipeline Safety Division related to corrosion and bridge crossings.

The DPU conducted an investigation of National Grid in response to a March 2021 information request related to the bridge crossings in the state that have major gas distribution lines running across them. The utility company reportedly identified 646 bridge crossings in its service area, with 45 of these being listed in “poor” condition as to their atmospheric corrosion.

Of those listed in poor condition, 32 of the crossings were identified as having been in poor condition for at least two cycles. 16 of the listed crossings were identified as having been identified as having been in this condition for three or more cycles, as far back as 2016.

DPU reported that, to date, there is no evidence that the bridge crossings in poor condition have been remediated. Based on the response from National Grid, DPU wrote, the company had failed to follow its own procedures, which required the bridge crossings to be repaired prior to the next inspection.

The alleged violations of its procedures and federal pipeline safety regulations regarding atmospheric corrosion, under 49 CFR §192. 479, 49 CFR §192. 481 and 49 CFR §192. 605, include:

  • Each operator must clean and coat each pipeline or portion of pipeline that is exposed to the atmosphere, except pipelines under paragraph (c) of this section;
  • Coating material must be suitable for the prevention of atmospheric corrosion;
  • Except portions of pipelines in offshore splash zones or soil-to-air interfaces, the operator need not protect from atmospheric corrosion any pipeline for which the operator demonstrates by test, investigation, or experience appropriate to the environment of the pipeline that corrosion will only be a light surface oxide or not affect the safe operation of the pipeline before the next scheduled inspection;
  • If atmospheric corrosion is found during an inspection, the operator must provide protection against the corrosion as required by §192.479; and
  • Each operator shall prepare and follow for each pipeline, a manual of written procedures for conducting operations and maintenance activities and for emergency response. For transmission lines, the manual must also include procedures for handling abnormal operations. This manual must be reviewed and updated by the operator at intervals not exceeding 15 months, but at least once each calendar year. This manual must be prepared before operations of a pipeline system commence. Appropriate parts of the manual must be kept at locations where operations and maintenance activities are conducted.

“Based on the investigation, the division has reason to believe that the respondent’s failure to properly maintain bridge crossings in a satisfactory condition may be in violation of certain sections of its procedures and federal pipeline safety regulations,” the DPU order states.

National Grid was then ordered to pay the $1.6 million fine and fix the corroding pipes

According to reports, a DPU spokesman said the company has paid the fine and “remediated” several of the bridges. Others are being fixed under terms of the consent order.

In a statement to The Salem News, National Grid said the company has “developed a work plan to remediate the identified deficiencies.”

“We are on schedule with that plan and are working in coordination with local municipalities and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation where necessary to schedule and execute work,” the statement reads. “We will monitor all locations periodically until the work is completed.”

The redacted report does not reveal the exact locations of the bridges and whether the pipelines were leaking gas.

Previous National Grid Settlement

Back in 2021, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that a $21 million settlement had been reached regarding two New York City gas distribution companies owned by National Grid, a multinational electricity and gas utility company with roughly 1.8 million residential and commercial customers within the metropolitan area.

According to the Governor’s press release, National Grid had failed to properly maintain protections for its underground natural gas distribution system and inadequately supervised workers and contractors working on the gas lines.

During an investigation conducted by the State Public Service Commission, officials were reported to have identified inadequate cathodic protection levels on pipes at National Grid's Northport Regulator Station, in addition to other regulator stations along Long Island.

While National Grid reported that it was in the process of correcting the cathodic protection issues at Northport, when investigators visited the Commack Regulator Station, they found the same problem. In this industry, it is required to have proper cathodic protection as to prevent corrosion on steel pipes. If and when corrosion does occur, it risks the integrity of the pipe and in worst case scenarios, could result in catastrophic failure.

Over the course of the investigation, officials conducted a review of operations and maintenance records associated with delivery points for the Iroquois Pipeline system at the Northport Regulator Station, the Commack Regulator Station, and one, specifically identified pipeline segment, found that underground control lines and a pipeline segment, subject to specific cathodic protection requirements, did not demonstrate adequate or compliant cathodic protection levels.

In a separate investigation, officials were also able to determine that National Grid had failed to comply with the Commission's gas safety rules related to gas infrastructure work in their service territories. It was through this additional investigation that the Commission concluded that National Grid failed to inspect work completed by its contractors during construction at sufficient intervals to ensure compliance, and that it allowed work to be completed by plastic fusers and plastic fusion inspectors who were not properly qualified to do the work.

The $21 million settlement was approved by the State Public Service Commission with National Grid's New York City and Long Island gas businesses for repeated violations of gas safety regulations that are designed to ensure that underground gas pipelines are protected from corrosion.

The actions taken were made possible by reforms to the Public Service Law put in place by Cuomo in 2013, which strengthened the Commission's enforcement mechanisms to ensure that major electric and gas utility companies are held accountable first and foremost for ensuring the safety of New Yorkers before utility failures cause any damage.

According to Cuomo, the settlement money would be used as a credit to offset the costs of National Grid's Commission-approved energy efficiency and demand response programs. Use of the funds would be subject to separate approval by the Commission in National Grid's currently pending rate cases, or in other future proceedings.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; Regulations; Rehabilitation/Repair; Utilities; Violations

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.