LANSING (WWJ/AP) – One of Michigan’s largest utilities has agreed to pay $1 million to create a new response fund after a natural gas line exploded, killing a Royal Oak man.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said Monday Consumers Energy will spend $900,000 to help victims affected by natural gas disasters with shelter, food and clothing. Another $100,000 will help study best safety practices and train utilities and first responders.

Also Monday, state regulators fined Consumers $430,000 for the February explosion that killed 58-year-old Daniel Malczynski and damaged 30 homes and a 2010 furniture store explosion in Wayne that killed two employees.

“What happened to Daniel Malczynski was an inexcusable tragedy, and my heart goes out to his loved ones,” said Schuette, in a media release.  “The two main goals of this $1 million agreement are, first, to ensure tragedies like this are not repeated, and second, to provide a safety net for Consumers Energy customers who face the unthinkable tragedy of a natural gas disaster.

“It’s not good enough to just respond to victims after the fact.  We must do all we can to ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated,” Schuette continued. “To accomplish this, Consumers Energy will complete an independent study of the best natural gas safety practices in the industry and train Michigan utility workers and first responders to better respond to natural gas incidents for the protection of the public.”

The $1 million agreement with Schuette remains independent of the Michigan Public Service Commission’s ongoing investigation of the Royal Oak explosion and any sanctions that may follow that investigation.

[Royal Oak Explosion Photos]

In an interim report filed with the Commission in April 2013, Consumers Energy admitted that its employees failed to follow important safety standards intended to protect the public.

An undisclosed number of utility workers were fired in connection with the Royal Oak incident.

“Michigan families deserve the highest standards of safety, and the commitments achieved with this agreement are the first steps toward strengthening public safety for the citizens of Michigan,” said Schuette.

Schuette said victims helped by the fund won’t waive their right to sue the unit of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp.

The utility says it fully accepts the fines and agreement.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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