NTSB Removes PA Public Utilities Commission as Party to R.M. Palmer Factory Gas Explosion Investigation


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​​Subpoena issued for documents

​WASHINGTON (September 18, 2023) – The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it has removed the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission as a party to the investigation into a March 24 natural gas–fueled explosion and fire at Building 2 of the R.M. Palmer plant in West Reading, Pennsylvania.

The NTSB said the Pennsylvania PUC violated the terms of the agency’s party agreement by not providing unredacted inspection and investigation reports of UGI Utilities, Inc., the natural gas pipeline operator whose assets were involved in the gas explosion. Consequently, the NTSB has issued a subpoena to the PUC to obtain the reports from UGI.

The NTSB has used the party system for decades as part of the agency’s investigative process, which allows the sharing of factual investigative information during the early phases of an investigation. This sharing of information is critical to a comprehensive and efficient investigation and ensures a party to an investigation has sufficient information to take any immediate actions necessary to ensure safety. 

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission was designated as a party to this investigation based on its oversight of UGI as a jurisdictional natural gas pipeline operator in Pennsylvania, and because the PUC could provide suitable qualified technical personnel who could actively assist in the NTSB investigation.

Applicable Federal regulations expressly authorize the NTSB to inspect any records related to an accident investigation and obligate a party to an NTSB investigation to provide any requested information related to the accident or incident. As a party, the PUC was required to comply with these regulations. 

By not providing the requested information to the NTSB, the PUC has not met its obligations as a party to the investigation as codified in federal law. The inability to access and review unredacted documents may compromise the accuracy and completeness of the investigation. The NTSB has therefore revoked the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission’s party status. ​

NTSB letter to the Pennsylvania PUC can be found online

More information on the natural gas explosion investigation is available on the investigation webpage​.     

To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).