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Peoples Gas fined $1 million over faulty inspections; customers to get $2 million in credits

Published May 6, 2016

TAMPA — State regulators Thursday approved a settlement that fines Peoples Gas $1 million and provides $2 million in customer credits for failures in its inspection compliance that included falsified leak-inspection reports.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously to approve the settlement among Peoples, the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumer interests, and the agency.

"We have taken this issue very seriously," said Gordon Gillette, Peoples Gas president. "And we've made significant improvements as a result."

The customer credit will occur in 2017 and will amount to 15 cents a month for average residential customers, or $1.80 for the year, according to parent company TECO Energy.

PSC staff first noted a problem with Peoples record keeping in 2013. The company then investigated and discovered the falsified inspection reports in the Ocala area during 2014.

Peoples Gas said it took corrective actions, including disciplining several employees and conducted an investigation of its entire system with external auditors to ensure compliance with state regulations.

In December, Gillette said he was "disappointed" because the problems did not reflect "the true commitment to safety and integrity that Peoples Gas maintains every day."

The Office of Public Counsel had asked the PSC on Dec. 7 to consider fining Peoples Gas for the problems.

The $1 million fine will be paid by shareholders, TECO Energy officials said, and will go into Florida's general revenue fund. Though customers are receiving a bill credit next year, the case does not appear to have involved allegations of overbilling.

Peoples Gas serves 365,000 customers in Florida, including portions of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

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