Monday, July 19, 2010

Con Ed to Pay $1 Million to Settle Inquiry Into Fatal Explosion by Patrick McGeehan - City Room Blog -

Read original...

State utilities regulators agreed on Thursday to allow Consolidated Edison to pay $1 million to end an investigation into an April 2009 gas explosion that destroyed a house in Queens and killed one of its residents.

The state’s Public Service Commission approved a settlement that calls for the utility to take the money from its shareholders and set it aside for customers.

The commission has not yet decided whether the money should be used to offset an impending increase in Con Edison’s gas rates or if it should benefit customers in another way.

The state’s Department of Public Service investigated the explosion, which occurred after Con Ed workers arrived at the site in the Floral Park neighborhood in response to a report of gas odor. A report of the investigation concluded that the company had violated its procedures for responding to gas leaks. The explosion killed Ghanwatti Boodram, 40, a nurse and the mother of three.

The $1 million settlement came in lieu of any penalties the commission might have levied against the utility for its handling of the gas leak. It is equivalent to the maximum $250,000 penalty the commission could have sought for each of the four violations Con Ed was cited for.

“This resolution of the penalty issues related to the alleged gas safety code violations obtains the maximum amount that the commission could have obtained had it fully litigated a civil penalty action in this case,” said Garry A. Brown, the public service commission chairman. “This decision is in the interest of ratepayers because it provides a direct benefit to ratepayers that could not be achieved under an enforcement action.”

In a statement, Con Edison said: “We expect today’s agreement with Public Service Commission will fund a variety of new equipment and public safety improvements that will enhance emergency response and communications.”