The MPSC today approved a settlement agreement in which Consumers Energy Co. will pay $545,000 over violations of the MISS DIG Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act.
The utility also agreed to implement new procedures and other steps to ensure compliance with the MISS DIG 811 law that governs proper pre-excavation location and marking of underground utility lines in Michigan. The MISS DIG system is a public safety program that helps prevent accidental strikes of underground pipelines and other utility lines while digging. Failure to properly locate and mark utility lines can lead to property damage, injury, and loss of life.
The MPSC last June (Case No. U-20569) ordered Consumers to respond to findings by the MPSC’s Gas Operations Section Staff that the company did not mark underground utility lines in a timely manner in more than 20,000 instances where MISS DIG 811 was notified of plans to excavate in April and May of 2019. Staff also found that the utility only partially responded to many other requests for utility marking.
Consumers Energy acknowledged untimely responses while providing mitigating factors for consideration. Under the settlement agreement, Consumers will pay:
•A $145,000 civil penalty to the Commission that will be used for underground facility safety education and training;
•$100,000 directly to MISS DIG Systems, Inc., for improvements to MISS DIG;
•And a donation of $300,000 to The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), which provides utility bill assistance to people in need; to the extent practicable, the amount shall be used for the benefit of Consumers customers.
The money Consumers agreed to pay will not be recoverable from ratepayers, under the settlement’s terms. Nor will Consumers be able to recover from customers the approximately $1.7 million in costs the company incurred to eliminate the staking backlog the utility experienced in April and May 2019, or any additional costs related to facility damage incurred by the company due to staking noncompliance.
In addition, Consumers has agreed to implement new staking procedures and provide monthly staking reports to MPSC staff beginning in February and continuing through Dec. 31, 2021. Consumers and the MPSC also will hold two technical conferences during that period to assess the adequacy of Consumers’ new staking procedures and make changes as necessary.