The Georgia Public Service Commission is set to vote this week on a settlement with Atlanta Gas Light concerning 2018’s explosion in Homerville that destroyed a local coffee shop.
The new settlement calls for Atlanta Gas Light to pay $347,000 for gas detector equipment, training, and safety initatives. The latest settlement figures are higher than a $250,000 figure proposed in September of last year, and significantly lower than the $2.3 million recommended in fines by PSC staff in April of 2019.
Thursday, PSC members held a meeting concerning the latest settlement proposal, hearing details of how the $347,000 will be spent. The agreement calls for AGL to contribute $275,000 to the Georgia Pipeline Emergency Responder Initiative to be used to train and requip emergency responders to use gas detectors. The agreement also calls for $72,000 to go to the Georgia Rural Water Association for training on locating utility lines in Georgia.
In September, the settlement also called for such measures, but PSC member Jason Shaw, of Lakeland, questioned whether the $250,000 figure was enough to supply rural fire stations with the equipment they need. The matter was thus tabled.
“Our job was to address this from a prevention standpoint, so that it doesn’t happen again,” said Shaw. “I talked to a lot of rural fire chiefs, and none of them had this equipment. We’re going to put these all around the state where they are needed.”
The PSC was set to vote on the settlement this week, possibly Tuesday.
Back in April of last year, the PSC’s pipeline safety office recommended $2.3 million in civil fines to be paid by AGL after their probe into the explosion. In that report, the PSC pipeline safety office alleged that AGL failed to locate and marks its pipeline, failed to consider a valve to limit the flow of gas after the incident, failed to follow its own procedures on drug and alcohol testing of personnel after the incident, and failed to perform a complete investigation into what happened that caused the explosion at Coffee Corner on August 17, 2018.
Three local women (Baylee Tolle, Emily Tolle, and Anna O’Guin) suffered serious burns and injuries on that date in August, when a natural gas leak in Homerville prompted the Coffee Corner building on East Dame Avenue to explode. Investigators said a utility crew punctured a gas line and a sewer line while boring fider optic cable. The gas leaked into the sewer line connected to Coffee Corner, igniting in a fiery explosion that demolished the small brick building.
There have been no announcements about civil lawsuits filed in association with the incident.