DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Atmos Energy Corporation is facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Texans claiming it is not doing enough to warn customers of a danger that could be in your home.
The gas company uses a cartoon character named Rosie the Skunk to teach customers, “If you smell gas? Act Fast.” In educational campaigns, you hear her say, “Hello this is Rosie the Skunk for Atmos Energy. You might think I make a bad smell but it’s nothing compared to the rotten egg smell of a gas leak.”
But now on behalf of more than 1.6 million Texans, Texas burn survivor Russell McElyea filed a lawsuit claiming the campaign (and Atmos) gives customers a “false sense of security.”
He and many other house explosion survivors say they never smelled that rotten egg smell.
“They’re awareness campaign is called smell gas act fast but in reality, you might not smell the gas!” says Attorney Dean Gresham who represents McElyea and the family of the 57-yearold Navy veteran Raul Pedroza.
In May of 2017, Pedroza lit his stove in Stephenville to cook lunch just seconds before he was engulfed in a ball of flame. McElyea carried Pedraza out of the house before it exploded.
Pedroza died 15 months later, but not before he and McElyea say they never smelled that rotten egg odorant which is injected into gas before it reaches your home.
“When they admit the infrastructure is outdated, they admit that odor fade can occur…” says Gresham.
Following our I-Team reports, Atmos just added this warning to its mailers: “The odor intensity can be diminished…such as when gas passes through certain soil conditions.”
The energy company is also advising customers about natural gas detectors, but victims say the warning is in too fine of print and not enough.
Waving the pamphlet, Gresham says, “To me, this warning is not a warning”
And McElyea says the more well-known warning, such as the Rosie the Skunk campaign, was not enough in May of 2017.
The class action lawsuit is not seeking money but rather asking Atmos to provide all of its customers with a natural detector for their homes.
Atmos Energy Corporation sent the I-Team this statement:
We are aware of the lawsuit but disagree with its claims.
We are committed to an ongoing public awareness program to educate, communicate, and provide outreach efforts about natural gas pipeline safety with our customers, the public, local officials, and first responders in the communities we operate. Our program follows the guidance provided by the American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 1162, “Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators,” as adopted by federal regulations.
To recognize a gas leak, we encourage our customers to rely upon all of their senses to detect the presence of natural gas, and we continue to take precise steps to ensure that the odorant levels within our natural gas are readily detectable by a person with a normal sense of smell. We also make our customers aware of situations where odor intensity can be diminished by physical and/or chemical process, such as when gas passes through certain soil conditions. For more information, the public can go to our website.
Anyone who thinks they smell natural gas inside their home or business should Act Fast! Leave the area immediately and call 911 and the Atmos Energy emergency line at 1.866.322.8667.