KCC, gas companies collaborating on replacing old pipes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission and natural gas companies are working to find a way to replace aging gas pipes in a less-expensive way.

Kansas natural gas companies currently add a fee, called the gas service reliability surcharge, to customers’ bills to cover projects required by safety regulations or related public works projects.

But the Legislature-approved charge doesn’t cover preventative work like replacing old cast iron and steel pipes before they break. Officials say that kind of work is cheaper and causes less disruption than an emergency pipe repair.

The commission wants to develop a process that would allow it to preapprove spending to replace old pipes over time before they become a hazard, commissioner Pat Apple said. It would allow the commission to steer investment toward high-priority pipes, such as those than run underneath more populated areas.

Apple told The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1zTrkjR ) that amending the GSRS to pay for pipe-replacement work requires legislative approval. Some commissioners think they can set up a separate process without sending it to the Legislature.

Kansas Gas Service, which serves the Topeka area, already has plans to replace its cast iron pipes over the next five years and its bare steel service lines over the next 10 years.

“When you can be proactive, it will be a much more reasonable cost than if you have to react to it,” said Leo Haynos, KCC’s chief of energy operations and pipeline safety.

He said older pipes are at a higher risk of failure, but companies check them more frequently for leaks and conduct repairs or replacements if needed. People shouldn’t worry that the pipes pose an immediate threat to them, though they should call for help if they smell a gas leak, he said.

“It’s a way of addressing it before it becomes an unsafe system,” Haynos said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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