New Records Show Slow Progress in Gas Line Replacement

Conflicting statements from City of Dallas on explosion investigation

In records provided Tuesday, an Assistant City of Dallas Attorney said a criminal investigation is underway into the February gas explosion that killed a 12 year old girl.

The statement came in a city letter to the Texas Attorney General seeking support for denying a records request from NBC 5 about the February 23 explosion.

City Arson investigators who deal with criminal cases have been seen within the past two weeks at the location on Espanola Drive.

“However, at this time there have been no indications or findings that would lead us to believe anything criminal has taken place,” a statement from Dallas Fire Rescue Spokesman Jason Evans said Tuesday evening.

DFR has referred other recent questions to the National Transportation Safety Board which is also investigating the incident. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC) which regulates gas utilities is involved in the investigation, too.

New records obtained by NBC 5 from the TRRC suggest gas provider Atmos Energy has agreed to replace only a small fraction of distribution lines in the company’s Mid-Tex division which includes Dallas.

Leak records from the state also show some of the replacement underway now is in areas where past leaks have been reported.

The company stopped gas service to 2,500 homes in the area around the February explosion for a large pipe replacement project.

Dallas County’s top elected official, County Judge Clay Jenkins said Atmos needs to share more information and speed up replacement of older lines.

“We’ve got to get some eyes on the risk tools they are using to see if our consumers can get comfortable that they are replacing the right lines and we’re going to have to do this a lot faster,” Jenkins said.

The TRRC imposed new rules on gas utilities in 2011 for accelerated replacement of distribution lines starting with the most leak-prone segments first.

Annual reports of the work plan obtained from the TRRC for the period between 2012 and 2017 show Atmos promised to replace a total of 800.875 miles of distribution line. The Atmos website indicates the company operates around 39,000 mile of distribution lines in two company divisions of Texas.

Jenkins said the company still operates more than 400 miles of the oldest style cast iron pipe in Dallas County.

“Twenty One states have done away with cast iron pipe. Here in Dallas, we still have 400 miles of cast iron pipe. That stuff is from the 20’s and 30’s,” he said.

The County Judge called on Atmos to detail where older pipe is located.

New regulations from the TRCC in 2011 ordered utilities to replace leak prone lines.

Atmos replied to questions Tuesday with an e-mail that said more time would be needed for answers.

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