Bills to Prevent Gas Leak Explosions, Improve Accountability Introduced in Texas

When Dallas fire crews received a call about a house explosion in the 3500 block of Espanola Drive on February 23, 2018, they suspected a gas leak. After all, they had been called to that block for a gas-related fire or house explosion twice before within the last 72 hours and a total of nine times since 2010.

They arrived to find four injured people standing in front of what remained of their home. One of them cradled a young girl who was unresponsive. Firefighters immediately began lifesaving measures and transported her to a hospital, but Linda Rogers, 12, known for her beautiful smile and bubbly personality, did not survive.

In the weeks before the explosion, Linda’s family had twice called Atmos Energy about the smell of gas. The company responded to the first call by repairing a meter on the exterior of the home. The second time, the company told them there was nothing to worry about, a family member told

But neighbors said they, too, had smelled gas in the months before the deadly explosion and seen it bubbling up through puddles in the neighborhood. Clearly, there was a problem, they thought, why wasn’t anything being done?

Now, almost a year later, something is.

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Investigative Series Inspires Pipeline Safety Reform

The explosion that claimed Linda’s life launched an investigative series by the Dallas Morning News, called Time Bomb, which examined the serious problems and deadly explosions linked to Atmos Energy’s aging gas pipeline system and how state regulators often failed to take meaningful enforcement action.

Dallas house explosion damaged pipes 1

NTSB photo of damaged pipes removed from the area near the deadly house explosion.

The paper discovered that during a 12-year period, gas leaks from Atmos Energy pipelines had been linked to more than two dozen house explosions, nine deaths, and 22 injuries. And, over the course of a decade, the company’s Mid-Tex division, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, received more than 2,000 safety violations paid less than $250,000 in fines.

The investigative series inspired Texas lawmaker Rafael Anchia to introduce an 11-bill package of legislative reforms aimed at improving pipeline safety and strengthening accountability. Anchia, who represents the district where Linda’s family lived, introduced the bills on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.

“Texas lawmaker Rafael Anchia’s proposals to increase accountability for natural gas companies are a great step in the right direction. Our firm has represented too many victims of pipeline explosions in tragedies that were entirely preventable,” said Eric Hageman, a lead attorney at the Pritzker Hageman Explosion Law Firm.

One of the bills would require gas companies to give written notice – in English and Spanish, to people living near a gas leak within 72 hours of its discovery.

Another bill would require gas companies to use online maps to post gas leak locations in real-time.

“By design, pipelines are hidden from view and far too often, our injured clients were entirely unaware they were even in the vicinity of a dangerous pipeline. Knowledge is power. If gas companies are required to publicly report safety risks, as in Representative Anchia’s proposal, people can make their own choices about personal safety. But if people are kept in the dark about pipeline safety, bad things can happen to innocent people,” Hageman said.

Anchia’s proposed reforms also include one bill that would require companies to replace aging pipelines by December 31, 2020.  And another that would limit campaign contributions from companies to elected regulators when a contested case is being decided.

Explosion Attorney Eric Hageman

“Accountability for gas companies should not be limited to compensating injured victims in a lawsuit. That is too often where our firm comes into the picture. However, society is better served if gas companies are accountable for creating dangerous conditions even before tragedy strikes.”

Gas Explosion Attorney Eric Hageman

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