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BGE working on hundreds of projects to prevent another 2019 Columbia gas explosion

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Posted at 1:00 PM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 13:06:57-05

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — BGE and the Public Service Commission of Maryland have agreed on a plan to prevent another incident like what happened in August 2019, when a gas explosion nearly destroyed a Columbia shopping center forcing several businesses to either close or relocate.

Following an investigation into the incident, the commission found that BGE failed to meet minimum safety standards in violation of state and federal regulations.

It was learned that BGE had developed its own underground construction standards but didn't separate underground lines for joint trench installations as required.

BGE ended up being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, and were ordered to develop and submit a plan that would prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

RELATED: Demolition begins at Columbia shopping center that exploded

On Thursday, the commission accepted BGE's proposal, which identified 253 additional locations that could be at risk of a similar situation like the one in Columbia.

BGE also told the commission that they found 1,000 more sites that differ slightly from the Columbia one , but could also pose safety hazards.

In each case BGE said they would make enhancements and upgrades to those trenches in question, with all work being complete by 2023 at a cost of roughly $17 million.

While the commission rescinded a portion of their imposed regulations, they ordered BGE to update the commission on both the progress of its plan and ongoing expenditures on an annual basis by April 1.

The commission says BGE has assured them it has not charged customers in an attempt to recover expenses caused by the incident.

In a statement, BGE says they're pleased with the commission's decision.

"We are pleased that our plan to upgrade gas and electric service installations that are similar to the Stanford Blvd. configuration to current safety standards has been accepted by the PSC. These enhancements include relocation of the underground electrical cables outside of trenches commonly shared with gas pipes and the installations of excess flow safety valves."

BGE added that 57 of the projects discussed have already been completed or are currently under construction.

"We began work last year to improve the 253 gas and electric common service trenches that were the same configuration as Stanford Blvd. The 253 safety upgrades will be completed this year. Currently 57 projects are completed or in construction, with the remaining in engineering design in preparation for construction. As part of this plan we are also similarly addressing approximately 1,000 other locations with a smaller diameter gas pipe than the Stanford Blvd. to bring them up to current safety standards."

Read the entire report from the Public Service Commission of Maryland, below.