NiSource report emphasizes safety after Massachusetts gas explosions, accelerates emissions targets
NiSource released its 2018 integrated annual report on Tuesday, accelerating its 2016 plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — from 50% by 2025 to 90% by 2030 — while also targeting a 50% reduction in methane emissions from pipeline gas operations, all compared to 2005 levels.
The utility is also targeting a 99% reduction in water withdrawal, wastewater discharge, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury and a 100% reduction in coal ash generated by 2030. Earlier this year, its electric generation subsidiary, Northern Indiana Public Service Co. (NIPSCO), found it could save its customers billions by phasing out coal by 2028 and investing in renewables.
- Safety improvements are another emphasis of the report, stemming from a series of deadly explosions in September caused by the overpressurization of gas distribution lines from its subsidiary, Columbia Gas. Since then, the utility said it plans to invest an additional $150 million to install automatic shut-off devices to protect against overpressurization on low-pressure systems. It also noted it has replaced 430 miles of natural gas pipeline, "including 302 miles of priority pipe" in 2018.
NiSource's operation of its gas subsidiary came under sharp scrutiny last year after the Massachusetts explosions, and its annual report in part tries to satisfy stakeholders that substantive changes have been made since then.
"[N]o discussion of 2018 performance would be complete if we didn't take time to reflect on the September event that resulted in the loss of a young life and affected nearly 10,000 customers in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover, Massachusetts," Joe Hamrock, NiSource President and CEO wrote in his address to utility stakeholders. "...We launched a series of safety enhancements, and then began the largest natural gas restoration project in our company's history."
The explosions killed one person, sent 21 people to the hospital, damaged 131 structures and destroyed five homes.
The National Transportation Safety Board in a November safety report determined that "omissions" in Columbia Gas pipeline engineering plans led to the overpressurization that caused the series of deadly explosions. Four of the board's five recommendations were aimed at the utility, calling for NiSource to revise its engineering and construction review practice.
A January report later found the utility had more than 34,000 "Class-1" leaks in 2017, which call for immediate repair.
NiSource replaced 44 miles of pipeline around the impacted region following the September event and said it would increase remote monitoring on its low-pressure systems.
It also said its methane reductions will come from its commitment to the Environmental Protection Agency's Natural Gas Star Methane Challenge Program, which establishes voluntary emissions reduction targets. In 2016, the utility said it would reduce emissions 50% by 2025 through pipeline modernization.
NIPSCO's five remaining coal plants total 1,800 MW and the utility said it would consider wind, solar and battery storage as replacement generation, helping the parent company reach its emissions reductions goals and eliminate new coal ash generation. NIPSCO estimates the plan will produce $4 billion in long term savings for ratepayers.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that 430 miles of Columbia gas pipelines were replaced since the September explosions. Those replacements were for all of 2018.
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