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KY PSC doesn't regulate gas company from Wolfe County explosion

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 17:39:40-05

WOLFE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Nov. 23 blast in Wolfe County destroyed Albert Vanderpool's home in seconds and his grandsons believe it never should have happened.

The blast killed their parents, Phillip and Sueann, instantly and Albert died a few days later.

As LEX 18 first reported, the couple's sons are suing Troublesome Creek Gas Corporation and claiming that the company failed to fix the problem after relatives called the company at least four times to report the smell of gas.

The lawsuit alleges that, ultimately, leaking gas, that was sold and delivered by the company, ignited and exploded, which caused the wrongful deaths of their parents.

Though investigators haven't ruled an official cause of the blast, LEX 18 wanted to know about Troublesome Creek's safety record. So, we went to the Kentucky Public Service Commission for an answer.

"Well, we don't have one," said Andrew Melnykovych with the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

That is because the public service commission does not regulate the company. It is not required to and the public service commission said that companies like Troublesome Creek operate "farm taps."

"Farm taps" basically involve a private line that taps into a larger pipeline that collects gas from a well. Every part of the service connection, except the meter, is owned and maintained by the customer.

"In terms of routine safety inspections, they simply don't have to undergo the same process that a regulated utility does," Melnykovych said.

So how many unregulated utilities are out there? Melnykovych said it is hard to say, but told LEX 18 that more than 95 percent of Kentucky gas customers are served by companies that are regulated by the public service commission.

But, there are many farm taps that the public service commission knows nothing about.

"It's hard to say how many farm taps are out there because, absent the farm tap owners notifying the PSC, we don't know about them," Melnykovych said.

That means there are thousands of individual connections operating with little to no oversight.

"We basically don't know about these things, nobody is required to let us know about them," Melnykovych said.

When asked if this is safe, Melnykovych responded with: "Depends on the operator."

Just this week, the public service commission said Troublesome Creek filed a tariff with them to set rates and charges.

When asked if farm taps should be regulated, the spokesman said that's a question for the legislature.

To read the full lawsuit, click here.