On Monday afternoon around 3:35 PM, a natural gas pipeline explosion near Farmersville in Collin County killed 2 workers and hospitalized 2 others. The group of workers were doing pipeline maintenance when it exploded for reasons that investigators have yet to disclose. Collectively, the four victims were contracted or employed by Atmos Energy, Bobcat Contracting, and Fesco Petroleum Engineering.
Tragedies like this force us to re-examine pipeline safety, beginning with the companies who contracted the job in the first place. In today’s blog, our pipeline explosion lawyers take a look at the recent history of one of these companies, and what that might tell us about Monday’s explosion.
Atmos Energy Found Responsible for Fatal 2018 Explosion
In the days leading up to February 2018, there were two “gas-related incidents” (i.e. explosions) involving Atmos Energy pipelines in a residential community in Dallas. The company investigated the incidents, found nothing, and took no action to evacuate the area. However, on February 23, a third explosion ignited, this time taking the life of a 12-year-old girl. She was practicing a cheerleading routine when she died.
In January of this year, the NTSB reported their findings after a three-year investigation into Atmos Energy’s actions on that day. The NTSB unanimously found Atmos Energy responsible for the death of the young girl due to their insufficient investigation of the gas leak that caused the first two explosions, as well as failing to recommend an immediate evacuation to save lives.
“We believe they should have shut down the system,” said Sarah Lyons, who oversaw the NTSB investigation. “…I believe we said they should’ve evacuated the houses and prevented access to those houses and the emergency shut down and, of course, they did not do that…” Ultimately, the cause of the gas leak was a faulty repair made 23 years earlier during a sewer replacement project. Due to Atmos’ negligence, the leak went undetected for decades until it accumulated enough gas to cause life-threatening explosions.
The Nation’s Oldest Gas Pipelines
Additionally, the NTSB investigation found that Atmos Energy provided insufficient training and resources to their employees, and they failed to provide clear protocols for assessing pipeline damage. In fact, the warning signs for the Dallas pipeline explosion started appearing over a month before the fatal explosion.
A 2018 investigation by The Dallas Morning News also found that over two dozen homes had exploded over a 12-year-period due to Atmos Energy lines, who infamously own some of the country’s oldest natural gas pipelines. Their pipes are vulnerable to corrosion and cracks, which means the dozens of explosions occurring due to Atmos’ pipelines could be prevented with pipeline replacement and better safety protocols.
What does this tell us about Atmos Energy? It tells us that, like many oil and gas companies we’ve faced, Atmos Energy is ultimately the cause for these incidents. Their pipelines are decades overdue for replacement, and until they’re held responsible, innocent people will pay the price for it. It also tells us that they’re often acting too late: waiting a month to act on a gas leak is negligent in the extreme.
Does that mean they’re responsible for the Collin County pipeline explosion? Not necessarily. But given that they have a pattern of causing explosions with very little accountability or changes to their policy, it’s not unlikely that these deaths are on their hands too.
Arnold & Itkin LLP has won record-setting verdicts against the world’s largest oil and gas companies because we know how they operate. We know their playbook, and we’re not afraid to do everything it takes to beat them in court. We’ll be watching this situation closely to provide counsel to anyone who needs help taking on whoever is at fault for Monday’s tragic explosion.
If you know something about what caused the Farmersville explosion or you need counsel, speak with us in a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.