U.S. federal security investigators issued a subpoena to Pennsylvania’s public utility regulator on Monday for paperwork associated to a deadly explosion at a chocolate manufacturing unit, escalating a months-long authorized dispute over the state company’s authority to share the delicate data.
The Nationwide Transportation Security Board stated the Pennsylvania Public Utility Fee has refused to offer unredacted inspection and investigation studies for UGI Utilities Inc., the pure gasoline utility on the middle of the probe into the March 24 blast on the R.M. Palmer Co. plant in West Studying.
The highly effective pure gasoline explosion leveled one constructing, closely broken one other and killed seven folks. Investigators have beforehand stated they’re taking a look at a pair of gasoline leaks as a potential explanation for or contributor to the blast.
The interagency dispute over 5 years’ value of UGI data concerned a battle between state and federal regulation.
The Public Utility Fee stated it couldn’t present the data within the format that the protection company demanded, citing a state regulation that protects “confidential safety data” about key utility infrastructure from public disclosure, even to different authorities businesses.
The fee stated it provided security investigators an opportunity to examine the studies at its Harrisburg workplace or to signal a nondisclosure settlement, however the federal company refused.
“It is a distinctive scenario the place a federal company is demanding that the PUC violate state regulation,” PUC spokesperson Nils Hagen-Frederiksen stated in a written assertion. “It’s unlucky that the NTSB has rejected potential options to this challenge, however we proceed working to resolve this deadlock.”
The protection board stated federal rules entitled it to the utility firm data and asserted the PUC was required to show them over.
As a result of federal regulation preempts state regulation, NTSB chair Jennifer L. Homendy wrote to the state utility fee chair, the PUC “has no authorized foundation to withhold the … inspection studies from the NTSB in any method.”
Along with issuing the subpoena, the protection company stated it additionally barred the Public Utility Fee from having any additional position within the federal probe.
“The actions of PA PUC have evidenced a scarcity of cooperation and adherence to our celebration processes and stop your continued participation within the investigation,” Homendy wrote.
About 70 Palmer manufacturing employees and 35 workplace employees have been working in two adjoining buildings on the time of the blast. Workers in each buildings advised federal investigators they might scent gasoline earlier than the explosion. Employees on the plant have accused Palmer of ignoring warnings of a pure gasoline leak, saying the plant, in a small city 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia, ought to have been evacuated.