One Call violations mean natural gas customers temporarily lose service

Apr 25, 2013

Two violations of North Dakota’s “one call” law in January meant some people in western North Dakota were temporarily without natural gas for heating their homes.

In the first incident, a North Carolina-based contractor struck a WBI Natural Gas line near Alexander. The contractor -- Phillips and Jordan -- had made a call -- but the North Dakota Public Service Commission says it did not due its due diligence when it started to dig.

"It was actually a very big incident," said Public Service Commission chairman Brian Kalk. "No one was injured. But a thousand people were out of natural gas for several hours during the winter."

The customers were in Alexander and Watford City. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says she talked to the pipeline company shortly after it happened.

"Cutting a line of this nature could have easily resulted in an explosion," said Fedorchak.

Phillips and Jordan has agreed to a $3000 fine. Under state law, the maximum fine is $5000.

In the second incident, which happened a few days later, a contractor had made the proper call – but because one of WBI’s gas lines was improperly marked, the line was hit – and 110 customers in Taylor lost gas service. Kalk says WBI has also agreed to pay a $3000 fine.

"The individual that did the locate was immediately disqualified from doing additional locates," said Kalk. "WBI is now going to be looking at their whole training program, because they don't want to have these kinds of things happen again."

Kalk says it’s a reminder of the importance of making that call before you dig.