Rauner Signs Bill Requiring More Inspections, Notifications For Gas Field

Gov. Bruce Rauner signs bill adding safety measures to People's Gas Manlove Gas Storage Field in Champaign County.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation adding new safety requirements to People's Gas Manlove Gas Storage Field in Champaign County. Among those pictures from L to R: members of the Eisenmann family, whose well was contaminated by the leak; Senate sponsors Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) & Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) and Mahomet village president Sean Widener, officials with the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and Chancellor Robert Jones (right, rear).

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Beginning next year, a new law will require People’s Gas to pay for yearly state inspections of its downstate natural gas storage field, and to notify local residents and authorities whenever a leak occurs. Governor Bruce Rauner signed the legislation at the University of Illinois Thursday.

The new law comes after a gas leak at the People’s Gas Manlove storage field in Champaign County contaminated private wells that draw water from the Mahomet Aquifer for rural homes along Illinois Route 47 near Fisher. Five households have sued the utility, which also faces a suit filed by the Illinois Attorney General's office.

Governor Rauner says that nearly two years later, the gas is still in those wells, preventing those residents from using their normal water supply.

“The problem is really still there, and People’s Gas is not addressing it as we believe they should be," said Rauner. "There’s obviously litigation going on, but we need real action in terms of getting into the ground, getting all the repairs done, and making reparations quickly."

State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), who sponsored the bill with other area lawmakers, says People’s Gas failed to properly inspect and maintain its gas storage wells, leading to what he says was multiple failures in pipeline casing at Manlove Field, producing the gas leak. Rose says People's Gas also did not notify local authorities and residents when the gas leak occurred in late 2016. Some were not notified about the leak for months.

"Sorry, People’s Gas," said Rose. " You didn’t do the job. You weren’t paying attention. You were asleep at the switch. Now, the state’s going to come in and look over your shoulder and make sure this thing is being done correctly."

People's Gas spokesman Brian Manthey defends the company's inspection process at Manlove Field, and say government agencies were notified at the time of the leak, as the law required. But he says People's Gas is ready to comply with the new law requiring it to pay for state inspections. The law will also require quick notification of area residents, government units and agencies that draw water from wells near Manlove Field, whenever a gas leak occurs.

Story source: WILL