The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a nearly $1.2 million settlement agreement with West Penn Power Company stemming from an April 12, 2018, incident that claimed the life of Terry Colton of Tarentum, Allegheny County.
The Commission voted 3-0 to adopt an Initial Decision by Administrative Law Judge Mary D. Long, which accepts a Joint Petition for Approval of Settlement between West Penn and the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement (I&E) alleging violations of the Public Utility Code by West Penn – including but not limited to an equipment failure which resulted in the death of Colton on his own property.
In the settlement, West Penn agrees to the following:
- The company will undertake substantial remediation measures - including remediation of materials, programs and policies to help prevent future material malfunctions, implement service improvements, and enact training procedures for both employees and contractors, as well as enhanced oversight procedures for contractors by West Penn Power employees.
- Upon implementation of each non-monetary, remedial measure, the company will file with the Commission a verification acknowledging that the company has met, or complied with, each of those measures.
- The company will pay a civil penalty of $1.175 million – which is not tax deductible and may not be passed through to West Penn’s customers.
In its complaint, filed March 26, 2021, I&E alleged that on April 12, 2018, a conductor owned by West Penn fell onto the wooded property of Terry and Frances Colton, causing a brush fire. After the fire was extinguished, Colton came into contact with the conductor and was killed. I&E further alleged West Penn violated the Public Utility Code because, among other things, West Penn failed to properly inspect and maintain the right-of-way and manage the vegetation within the right-of-way.