Gas and electric utilities are responding to unprecedented flooding in south central Montana. The Montana Public Service Commission continuously works with these utilities to ensure they are prepared to respond to events such as this.
The Commission asks that the public assist in this response by being aware of and reporting possible dangers. Call 911 if you observe any of the following:
If you smell gas, do not operate electrical switches or any other source of ignition, evacuate the area, warn others, and call 911. Gas leaks evidence includes a blowing or hissing sound, bubbling water, or blowing dirt.
If you see a downed power line or utility pole always assume electric lines are energized and present an immediate threat. Maintain a safe distance, warn others, and call 911.
In the most severe instances, the current flooding conditions have damaged or exposed gas pipelines on bridges, near riverbanks, and occasionally in yards and fields where the surrounding soil has eroded.
Pipelines in Montana carry a variety of products including, natural gas, propane, and liquids such as crude oil and gasoline. Gas pipelines may be constructed of steel or plastic and range in size from 1-12 inches. Larger steel transmission lines may also be exposed where they cross near and beneath rivers.
Again, during this event please be aware of and report any unusual observations, particularly exposed pipe, bubbling in flooded areas, petroleum sheens in water, blowing or hissing noises, or unusual smells associated with natural gas, gasoline, or oil. Report by calling 911 if appropriate or the NorthWestern Energy Service Center at (888) 467-2669.
811 and Excavation Awareness:
Excavation damage is the leading cause of damage to pipelines in Montana. Increased excavation activity due to the emergency is occurring and is anticipated during the response, clean-up, and reconstruction. Continue to call 811 so that underground facilities can be marked for safe excavation. Please understand the potential for utility locating services to become overwhelmed and/or delayed, exercise patience and continue to use safe excavation practices. Also, for the near term, you may also consider delaying excavation projects unrelated to the emergency so that locating services and utilities can effectively prioritize their work.
The Public Service Commission will be receiving a briefing from NorthWestern Energy on many topics, including flood and storm response on June 16th from 1:00-3:00 pm and can be viewed via livestream on the Montana Public Service Commission website at www.psc.mt.gov.
The Commission regulates private investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and oversees natural gas pipeline safety and intrastate railroad safety. The Commission works to ensure that Montanans receive safe and reliable service from regulated public utilities while paying reasonable rates. For more information, visit psc.mt.gov or contact the Commission at 1-800-646-6150. Follow the Commission at Twitter.com/@MT_PSC or visit Facebook.com/MontanaPSC.