gas fire

(Photo: Lauren Barthold/WWJ)

State Regulators Open Investigation Into Consumers Energy Incident That Prompted Emergency Alert

February 07, 2019 - 4:30 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - State regulators have opened an investigation into the Consumers Energy gas compressor station fire in Macomb County that raised concerns about keeping natural gas flowing to millions of Michiganders in frigid weather.

The Michigan Public Service Commission voted Thursday to launch the independent review amid serious concern whether gas utilities have strong safety programs following the incident, which prompted an emergency alert.

The Commission ordered the investigations to determine to following:

  • The origin of the fire.
  • How Consumers responded to the fire, both at the site and at its corporate office.
  • The company’s implementation of gas curtailment procedures.
  • Whether there is evidence of a failure on the part of Consumers to properly maintain its equipment or any non-compliance with Commission rules.
  • Whether the company properly responded to the natural gas shortage. 
  • Estimated reductions in natural gas usage from large customer curtailments and residential conservation during the emergency and as a result of public appeals and emergency alerts by Consumers and the State of Michigan.
  • Consumers’ coordination and communication with State of Michigan officials and local emergency response agencies.
  • Actions to protect against physical and cybersecurity before and during the event.
  • The total cost of the incident, including gas lost on site, emergency natural gas purchases, estimates of customer curtailment impacts, and repair of the facility

Michigan State Police sent an alert last Wednesday night to Lower Peninsula cell phone users informing them of Consumers' request that they temporarily lower their thermostats to 65 degrees as a way to conserve gas.

By noon on February 1, Consumers resumed normal natural gas delivery, the utility's CEO apologizing to customers for the inconvience and thanking them for their help

The emergency incident prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to request in a Feb. 4 letter to the MPSC’s chairman that the Commission assess the state’s supply and availability of natural gas, electricity, and propane, recommend ways to mitigate risk, and ensure safe, reliable energy.

The commission's investigation will be finalized by May. Once the investigation is complete, remedial action could be ordered.