Michigan regulators open probe of fire that cut gas supply

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan regulators have opened an investigation into a compressor station fire that raised concerns about keeping natural gas flowing to millions of residents in bitterly cold weather.

The Public Service Commission voted 2-0 Thursday to launch the review.

Consumers Energy asked people to temporarily lower thermostats last week following the fire at its facility in suburban Detroit. The fire cut the amount of natural gas that could be delivered.

Commissioner Norm Saari says the commission has an “increasing, serious concern” that gas utilities have strong safety programs following the fire, an explosion in a Pontiac neighborhood and a contractor’s “dig-in” of a gas line in Warren.

The Commission ordered the investigations to determine:

  • The origin of the fire.
  • How Consumers responded to the fire, both at the site and at its corporate office.
  • The company’s implementation of gas curtailment procedures.
  • Whether there is evidence of a failure on the part of Consumers to properly maintain its equipment or any non-compliance with Commission rules.
  • Whether the company properly responded to the natural gas shortage.
  • Estimated reductions in natural gas usage from large customer curtailments and residential conservation during the emergency and as a result of public appeals and emergency alerts by Consumers and the State of Michigan.
  • Consumers’ coordination and communication with State of Michigan officials and local emergency response agencies.
  • Actions to protect against physical and cybersecurity before and during the event.
  • The total cost of the incident, including gas lost on site, emergency natural gas purchases, estimates of customer curtailment impacts, and repair of the facility.

Also Thursday, commissioners agreed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to issue a report on Michigan’s supply and deliverability of natural gas, electricity and propane.

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