State utility regulators to open investigation into IPL following downtown explosions

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 20, 2015) – The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will open a new investigation into Indianapolis Power & Light.

The commission voted 5-0 Friday in a brief meeting to open the probe, citing a “risk to public safety.”

According to the IURC, the commission looked into network failures by Indianapolis Power & Light in 2011 and 2014. On both occasions, the IURC asked for analyses of failures, third-party reviews and action plans.

Despite that, underground explosions have continued in the Circle City, with the latest on Thursday morning at Capitol Avenue and North Street. There were no injuries, but at least two manhole covers went airborne and the problem cut power to the area for several hours.

The IURC hearing room filled up fast. Commissioners signed the order in about two minutes, swift but serious action.

"IPL has experienced continued failures in its facilities resulting in a risk to public safety," said Carol Stephan, Indiana Utility Resource Commission Chair.

That's why the IURC said it wants to examine everything IPL does and look at their whole system. Commissioners were so troubled by both Monday's and Thursday's explosive events that they acted quickly.

"I think the nature of what's been happening with IPL's network systems is of great concern to the commission," said Chetrice Mosley, Executive Director of External Affairs for the IURC, "I think it really says a lot that in a day the commission wanted to get an emergency order to get a conference and open up an investigation."

Investigations in years past were informal, looking at specific incidents and proposed fixes, according to Mosley.

IPL's made changes like replacing equipment, stepping up inspections, and developing emergency response protocols. But word from the IURC is that may not be enough.

"What the instances that have happened in the last week shows is that the commission really needs to look a bit more into the network and its entirety," said Mosley.

IPL executives were on hand for the brief meeting. They said they'd one again work with the IURC to find a solution.

"As in the past, we will be fully comprehensive and transparent in responding to the commission's inquiries," said Kelly Huntington, CEO of IPL.

The utility vows it'll bring in more independent consultants to look at their system and find other outstanding issues.

"We learned from every single event we had. Is our system better? Absolutely. Over the last four or five years we've taken steps to mitigate when things do happen," said Joe Bentley, Senior Vice-President of Customer Operations for IPL.

Meanwhile, at North and Capitol the sound of generators still filled the air but not at Dave Beck's tire shop.

"We're kind of stuck," said Beck, at All Star Tire.

He was closed Thursday and most of Friday morning. IPL finally got his generator working around noon on Friday as we were there. So, with the lights on, now he said his staff could finally get caught up.

"We'll get it done as quick as we can, and the customers' cars that have been here the longest fixed," said Beck.

The IURC will hold a technical conference on April 2nd, where they'll define the parameters of the investigation. We're told the full investigative process could take months.