Yes, you can sue Xcel Energy.
Xcel Energy delivers natural gas to two million customers in five states. The company talks openly about the safety hazards and operating risks inherent in a system that has been unable to stop gas leaks, explosions, fires, outages and mechanical problems. “These natural gas and electric risks could result in loss of life, significant property damage, environmental pollution, impairment of operations and substantial losses,’’ according to the Xcel Energy Annual Report.
Yet Xcel Energy remains financially strong. The company maintains insurance and has been sued in explosion cases for injuries and deaths. Investigations and disclosures have revealed instances at Xcel Energy of faulty procedures and deadly pipeline failures. As a U.S. regulated utility, Xcel also has paid fines and been cited for safety violations. Whole families have received financial settlements from Xcel’s natural gas explosions and fires.
Explosion lawyers Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman have gone up against Xcel and other major gas corporations when people have been killed and burned from horrible blasts. In their experience, the frequency of gas explosions is low, but the severity and human toll is incredibly high. The two attorneys don’t wait for gas companies or regulators to explain what went wrong. Instead, they conduct their own investigations on behalf of explosion victims who contact them. They have won multi-million-dollar settlements for clients who were severely burned in blasts caused by gas leaks and pipeline breaches, including $45 million for one family and $10 million for another client who was severely injured.
Xcel Energy’s natural gas and electric territory includes Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas and New Mexico. In Colorado two years ago, 10 people were injured in a natural gas explosion in Denver. Some victims were burned and some were pounded by the force of the blast. Rescue crews pulled at least two of the injured from the rubble. Xcel was the area’s gas supplier and the company was working with the fire department to determine the location and cause of the gas leak.
Later that year in Aurora, Colorado, two people were injured and another person died in an explosion and fire at Heather Gardens senior living community. The woman who lost her life was 82-year-old Carol Ross. A massive fire accompanied the blast, destroying four homes and damaging several others. Days before the explosion and fire, management notified residents of a gas leak. Xcel said the gas line was damaged by a non-Xcel contractor working for a third party.
Explosion lawsuit settlement
North Dakota’s Public Service Commission proposed that Xcel pay $30,000 in penalties for probable violations connected to a 2008 natural gas explosion that shredded a Fargo home and left a young mother severely burned. The regulator contended that Xcel didn’t properly investigate the gas leak, but Xcel filed a 14-page counter to that claim. Investigators discovered that a pinhole-sized leak in the service line allowed gas to migrate into the basement of the duplex. The burn victim hired an explosion lawyer and sued Xcel Energy.
The North Dakota Xcel gas explosion lawsuit was settled exactly one year after the blast. The settlement agreement was filed under seal in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis. The litigation sent an undisclosed amount of money to the woman who was burned. The settlement included funds for the woman’s children and her young siblings. The explosion put her in a coma and her condition required 36 skin grafts. Her recovery has included extensive physical therapy and occupational therapy.
$7.2 Million Safety Project
The near-fatal natural gas explosion at the house in Fargo resulted in a $7.2 million safety project by Xcel Energy to replace 22.2 miles of gas main and 2,345 service lines in North Dakota. The old lines were manufactured by Century Utility Products. The federal government warned in 1999 that Century pipe installed from 1970 to 1973 may fail “due to its poor resistance to brittle-like cracking.”
For Excel, it was the second time a house explosion preceded the replacement of dangerous gas lines. A similar replacement of Century-made gas lines in Minnesota started after a house exploded in the Twin Cities suburb of Cottage Grove. There were similarities to Fargo’s Xcel Energy house explosion. A couple in that home were burned.
Xcel has not contested certain safety violations, including two that were discussed in a March 2019 document from the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety. Both safety standards relate to a pipeline near Cheyenne, Wyoming. The document alleged Xcel violated regulations by failing to conduct leakage surveys at least twice a year.prior to August 2015. According to the document, Xcel also could not provide records to demonstrate that safety patrols took place at needed intervals prior to August 2015.
In 2013, a natural gas program evaluation in Colorado resulted in six civil penalties totaling $27,240, pipeline safety officials reported. The report said $25,000 was collected from Xcel.
Also in 2013, Xcel paid $150,000 in penalties to settle federal safety citations stemming from a 2007 fatal accident at a power plant near Georgetown, Colorado. Five workers died in that fire inside a tunnel at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric generating plant.
The tragedy spawned federal criminal charges against Xcel for violating workplace safety rules. The company was acquitted.
According to conclusions drawn by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the causes of the tragedy included.
- Lack of planning and training for hazardous work by Xcel and its contractor, RPI Coating, Inc.
- Xcel’s selection of RPI despite its having the lowest possible safety rating among competing contractors.
- Allowing volatile flammable liquids to be introduced into a permit-required confined space without necessary special precautions.
In August 2010, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) wrote a letter to Xcel to complain about a “disappointing pattern of corporate conduct’’ related to the Cabin Creek case. The letter alleged “actions taken by Xcel to delay the CSB investigation, block publication of the CSB final report, and distort the conclusions of the investigation.’’
Pritzker Hageman explosion and burn lawyers represent people nationwide who have been injured in explosions. Recently, they recovered a $45-million settlement for a client who was seriously injured in a pipeline explosion. If you or a member of your family has been injured, contact us online or call us for a free consultation at 1 (888) 377-8900 (toll-free).