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Energy company reaching out to residents about Christmas Eve carbon monoxide event

Libby Cunningham, The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.  


    Jan. 31—SOUTHERN INDIANA — There are still no answers as to what lead to the carbon monoxide issue in Clark and Floyd counties on Christmas Eve, and the investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

    A representative of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission told lawmakers this week that gas provider CenterPoint Energy's third-party vendor investigating the issue needs more time to "hone in" on a possible cause.

    IURC Executive Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Luke Wilson told lawmakers the Pipeline Safety Division is waiting on the the vendor to complete its analysis of data collected from a propane plant.

    "At this point I am looking for specifics about the delay," said State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany. "We're coming up on six weeks since the incident, and I don't understand why we aren't getting more details at this point. At minimum if there is a need for more time, then we need to understand why."

    Both Clere and State Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, have been vocal about wanting answers about the situation and have said CenterPoint needs to compensate residents for any costs incurred that day.

    Wilson said CenterPoint is contacting people who complained. Residents are asked to send any documentation like photographs, estimates or invoices, to the company.

    The letter states after those items are received, and the company completes its investigation, CenterPoint will be in touch with customers.

    "I have not heard from any constituents that they have received the letter, and the letter is an improvement over the complete lack of communication from CenterPoint up until now, but it's still not enough," Clere said, adding that it is his understanding the letter is only going out to people who reached out to CenterPoint about gas issues.

    The Town of Clarksville received more than 100 calls about carbon monoxide issues and malfunctioning appliances on Christmas Eve. Some people reported flames shooting out of gas stoves and heavy soot near appliances. Authorities took four people to the hospital for carbon monoxide-related complaints. Similar calls were also made in New Albany.

    Business owners and residents told the News and Tribune they lost money because of the issues.

    The IURC started its formal investigation into the incident on Jan. 6. Since then, officials with the commission's Pipeline Safety Division have inspected records at CenterPoint facilities in Sellersburg and Jeffersonville. CenterPoint has hired its third-party firm, Standby Systems of Minneapolis, and stopped its practice of mixing propane into the natural gas supply.

    "I am open to the possibility that the investigation is going to take additional time to complete," Clere said. "But we at least need to know why that's the case."

    A representative from the IURC told the News and Tribune Tuesday that the investigation by the Pipeline Safety Division is still ongoing and there are no additional updates at this time. The News and Tribune has contacted a representative from CenterPoint for an update on their investigation as well, and will provide information as it becomes available.


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