MINNEAPOLIS - CenterPoint Energy has announced a project to remove all couplings in the former Midwest Gas service area that may have been improperly installed. The project involves replacing up to 35,000 service lines in 37 Minnesota communities to be completed in 2005.

"CenterPoint Energy takes this situation very seriously," said Tracy Bridge, director of government and public relations for CenterPoint Energy. "The safety of our customers and the integrity of our distribution system are our most important priorities. This replacement effort is reflective of that commitment."

In 1993, CenterPoint Energy (formerly Minnegasco) purchased the Minnesota properties of Midwest Gas, an Iowa-based distributor of natural gas that at the time served 80,000 customers in Minnesota. Prior to this purchase, Midwest Gas had acquired North Central Public Service Co. in 1986. North Central Public Service Co. is the utility that originally installed gas service to all the customers acquired by Midwest Gas. An investigation by CenterPoint Energy has revealed that from 1959-1983, North Central Public Service Co. improperly used metal couplings (that were designed to join steel pipe) to join plastic pipe on some of its residential and commercial service lines. The Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety reached the same conclusion after it investigated a December 2004 building explosion in Ramsey, Minn.

CenterPoint Energy is in the process of finalizing the list of customers who might have an improper coupling installation on their service line. At this point, the project includes up to 35,000 former Midwest Gas customers in 37 communities located north and west of Minneapolis. The service lines will be replaced with new plastic (polyethylene) pipe using heat-fused connections. The project is currently underway in Buffalo, Minn.

CenterPoint Energy said it will replace its service lines in the least disruptive way using a minimally invasive technique, and will work to restore customer properties to their original condition.

For more information, call CenterPoint Energy at 612-372-4727 or 800-245-2377, or visit the Web site at www.centerpointenergy.com/SrvcReplace.

Publication date: 05/30/2005