Reporting Mireya Villarreal
LEWISVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – New details have been uncovered in the Lewisville gas explosion that left one man dead and sent two fire fighters to the hospital. CBS 11 took a closer look at state guidelines for energy and gas companies and uncovered some revealing information.
The Texas Railroad Commission does not require gas companies like Atmos Energy to map out the smaller lines that provide gas to your homes and businesses; there are just too many of them. However, they are required to come out and mark their gas lines when they know a utility company is going to be digging nearby.
So, the question is, did Atmos Energy properly mark their line that day?
There’s no doubt people in Lewisville are on edge after last week’s explosion. The problem started when a Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP) company crew hit a gas line. While Atmos Energy was trying to fix the leak, gas coming out of the line somehow ignited, causing a huge explosion.
By law, before a utility company, like TNMP, starts to dig they’re supposed to call 811. The call center then notifies the gas company that someone is planning to dig near their lines. The gas company will then come out and mark where their lines are so they don’t get hit.
In a statement to CBS 11 a representative for TNMP said they followed the rules. And as a part of their own investigation they are trying to figure out if Atmos Energy properly marked their gas lines:
A TNMP crew was on-site, replacing a pole. We had called Texas811 in advance to mark underground lines, and there were line markings present when we arrived, as expected.
At the site while working the job, when we realized a gas line had been struck, we followed protocol by stopping work, leaving our equipment in place and calling both the gas company and the fire department. That was about two hours prior to the dwelling becoming involved.
More details are expected to be identified during the appropriate investigations. We’ll be cooperating with Atmos Gas and governmental agencies.
In addition, we would like to share that safety is a very high priority for TNMP and its employees. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.
“What is concerning is that we have so many more natural gas pipelines under all of North Texas,” Libby Willis explained. “That means the risk has gone up.”
Libby Willis is the former president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods and still chairs its committee that studies pipeline safety. She says situations like the one in Lewisville could become more frequent if utility companies on both sides of line don’t start paying more attention.
“They have a responsibility to make sure their crews are adequately trained and doing their jobs the way they should be doing them and the people that are marking where these pipelines are need to be a lot closer,” Willis said.
CBS 11 found a report from the US Department of Transportation backs up what Willis is saying. Since 2006 they’ve investigated six major incidents involving Atmos Energy that resulted in more than $2.6 million in property damage.
One of them was the gas explosion back in August in McKinney. State reports show the digging company, Larrett Energy Services, called 811 just like they were supposed to. But the gas line couldn’t be found or located. And if it was marked it was at least ten feet off.
Full Texas Railroad Commission Report:
Atmos Energy didn’t respond directly to our questions about where or how they marked their gas lines in Lewisville that day. But they did say they are conducting their own thorough investigation and will re-evaluate their protocols once that investigation is complete.
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