DPU working on utility coordination issues

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The Department of Public Utilities is in the process of amending regulations governing natural gas leak classification and repairs.
The DPU has released draft regulations based on a law passed in 2014. The proposed regulations would make several changes to the classification of gas leaks, reporting requirements for companies, and the procedures for gas leak repairs on public ways.
The proposed regulations establish a uniform natural gas leaks classification system for identifying Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 leaks. The regulations lay out steps to repair and monitor leaks and contain specific provisions for repairs on public ways and in school zones.
The provisions related to repairs on a public way require that a municipality submit written notification to the gas company when conducting a significant project that requires the restoration of pavement in a public way over or above natural gas infrastructure. The gas company would then survey the project area for Grade 1 and Grade 2 leaks and set a repair and replacement schedule.
The draft regulations only address Grade 1 and Grade 2 leaks for projects in a public way, but the energy bill signed last month by the governor would incorporate Grade 3 leaks with a significant environmental impact.
The MMA submitted comments on the proposed regulations asking the DPU to clarify that a gas company shall provide the repair and replacement schedule of leaks to a municipality, and to specify that the schedule should be subject to agreement between the municipality and the gas company.
The MMA supports provisions stating that, when feasible, leaks shall be repaired before or within the timeframe of a municipal road construction project, a requirement that would prevent recently paved roads from being damaged by utility repairs.
The MMA also supports a provision that would require a gas company to provide a road pavement patch when repairs are not timed concurrently with a road project.
The draft regulations would establish requirements for Annual Service Quality Reports to be filed by gas companies with the DPU. The reports would include information on the locations of Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 gas leaks, as well as the dates the leaks were classified and repaired. This information would be made available to local officials upon request to the DPU.
The DPU has also put out draft regulations regarding gas and electric service during emergencies. The draft would revise regulations for standards of performance for emergency preparation and restoration of service for electric distribution and gas companies. The amendments to the regulations include additional requirements for gas and electric companies related to emergency response plans.
The proposed regulations would require companies to file a copy of their emergency management plans with the emergency management director of each municipality in its service territory. Companies would also be required to designate company employees as municipal liaisons for each municipality. During emergency events, municipal liaisons would have information and maps on service outages and would receive frequent updates, in order to respond to inquiries from local officials.
The DPU has been working over the past few months with the Special Utility Commission in order to understand and address issues of utility coordination. The DPU has also formed another working group on interconnection issues, to bring municipal officials, developers and utilities together on that topic.