From the Office of Commissioner Andy Tobin

         
  For Immediate Release | 9-25-18      
  Media Contact | Holly Ward      
  Direct | 602-542-3847      
  E-Mail | hward@azcc.gov      
         
 

Commissioner Tobin Calls for Arizona Pipeline Safety Review
Meets with Kinder Morgan and Southwest Gas Following Massachusetts Explosions

 
 

PHOENIX — Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin this week called an emergency meeting with Arizona’s major natural gas operators following several recent pipeline explosions in Massachusetts. 

In Boston earlier this month, multiple gas lines exploded after pressure in the lines reached levels 12 times higher than federal recommendations. The explosions caused over 70 structure fires across three towns in the Boston area, leading to at least one death and 25 injuries, with nearly 80 buildings destroyed, 8,600 customers in the area affected, and many residents having to evacuate their homes for several days. 

“My sympathies go out to the families and loved ones in the Boston area, and I think it’s a wakeup call for precaution and system checks for the operators in Arizona,” said Commissioner Tobin. “While we want access to an on-demand energy supply, health and safety are ultimately the priority.” 

Commissioner Tobin called an emergency meeting with Kinder Morgan and Southwest Gas recently to discuss how Arizona can learn from Massachusetts’ mistakes and ensure that pressure sensors are up-to-date, and industry best practices and safety protocols are being closely followed. 

“We’ve been assured by Kinder Morgan and Southwest Gas that our distribution lines are very different than those in Boston,” said Tobin. “Pressure monitoring and safety standards are being followed, and I want to thank the excellent partnership between our wholesaler, retailer, and the Corporation Commission in ensuring the safety of our customers in Arizona.” 

Commissioner Tobin, who has been closely monitoring Arizona’s existing pipeline capacity, had deep concerns with respect to the implications of over-pressurized gas lines in Arizona. As an industry practice, some natural gas operators use a technique called “packing,” or “line pack,” to effectively create natural gas storage within the pipes, while also increasing pipeline pressure in the process. 

According to representatives from Kinder Morgan, transmission lines into Arizona are at 100 percent capacity, making it harder for the company to adjust to rapid changes in demand and interruptions. Proposals in the past have included large natural gas storage solutions in various locations in Arizona but have thus far not come to fruition. Commissioner Tobin says he still supports these proposals, if they help secure reliable and affordable energy for the state, without jeopardizing safety. 

While capacity and safety protocols remain a top priority, representatives from Southwest Gas and the Director of the Commission’s Office of Pipeline Safety agree master meter systems currently pose the greatest ongoing threat to Arizona communities. There are currently 246 low-pressure master meter systems in Arizona, which are thought to be the kind of systems involved in the explosions seen in Boston. According to the Commission’s Office of Pipeline Safety, several residential communities, trailer parks, and schools have seen multiple gas leaks and fires because of these systems over the last several years.

Gas master meter systems are an issue the Corporation Commission has been actively looking at over the last several years when the master meter conversation began in early 2016. Commissioner Tobin emphasizes that he looks forward to working on a master meter solution for Arizona over the next several months, in anticipation of adopting a solution as soon as this winter or sooner. 

“Ensuring our customers and residential communities are safe during the coming holiday season is a top priority, especially after seeing these heart-breaking reminders such as in Boston,” said Commissioner Tobin. “Our gas master meter efforts, combined with our close monitoring of pipeline capacity in the state, I believe demonstrate our timeliness of addressing these issues in 2018.” 

Under Safety Division Director John Mazza’s leadership, the Commission has steadily been moving towards regulating Arizona’s entities to-standard. “I want to thank our wonderful Pipeline Safety Staff for their initiative in opening this docket proactively and keeping the Commission on top of these standards for the years to come.”

Commissioner Tobin urges anyone with questions or concerns not to hesitate to contact the Commission’s Director of Pipeline Safety at 602-542-3402 or safety@azcc.gov.

For more information on the Corporation Commission’s work related to master meters in Arizona, view the Corporation Commission’s online docket at http://edocket.azcc.gov and entering docket number G-00000C-17-0284.

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About Commissioner Andy Tobin:
Commissioner Andy Tobin was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2006 and served as Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2014. His leadership within the State of Arizona includes his time as former Director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, Director of the Arizona Department of Insurance, and Acting Director for the Arizona Department of Financial Services. Mr. Tobin also served as National President of the U.S. Jaycees Foundation. He was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to fill a vacant seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2015 and elected to serve a full term in 2016. During his time at the Commission, Commissioner Tobin has focused on getting broadband (internet) connections into rural Arizona schools, been instrumental in establishing the Water Emergency Team to proactively protect Arizona’s water supply, and introduced the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan, which calls for 80 percent of the state’s electricity generation to come from clean energy by 2050 and advocates for an end to devastating wildfires through the adoption of biomass related energy. 

The Arizona Corporation Commission was established by the state’s constitution to regulate public utilities and business incorporation. The five Commissioners elected to the Corporation Commission oversee executive, legislative, and judicial proceedings on behalf of Arizonans when it comes to their water, electricity, telephone, and natural gas resources as well as the regulation of securities, pipeline, and railroad safety. To learn more about the Arizona Corporation Commission and its Commissioners, visit .