The State of Texas is penalizing Atmos Energy Corp. $1.6 million following a deadly explosion three years ago in Northwest Dallas.
The natural gas explosion, which took the life of 12-year old Linda Rogers, was later found by inspectors to have been preventable. According to a report by the Railroad Commission of Texas, Atmos failed to detect leaks in the days and weeks ahead of the 2018 explosion.
“I saw the guy carrying the dead body of his daughter in his arms and it’s a feeling you can’t even explain carrying the dead body of your daughter because of somebody’s mistakes,” said neighbor Elodia Gutierez.
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Gutierez is among those outraged by the fine amount, which is a fraction of Atmos’ yearly profits.
“If you don’t give enough penalty to these people it is going to happen again and again,” said Gutierez.
The Rogers family declined to directly comment on the fine amount but family attorney Ted Lyon said he thinks the amount sets a dangerous precedent.
“It’s not even a slap on the wrist, it’s not even a mosquito bite,” said Lyon. “All they care about is protecting industry, and I’m sure their press release said this was a record fine, well it’s nothing.”
Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez also believes the fine amount falls well short of the dramatic impact the explosion had on his district.
“I think the 1.6 million dollars is an absolute slap in the face to our residents in Northwest Dallas and to the entire city of Dallas – I think this is just a slap on the wrist,” said Narvaez.
Atmos Energy released the following statement to NBCDFW:
“We are deeply saddened for the Rogers family’s loss. This tragic accident has and will continue to have a tremendous impact upon our company and our employees. We have 4,700 men and women working hard every day to provide natural gas service across eight states to 3.2 million customers in 1,400 communities. We take seriously our responsibility to provide safe and reliable service as well as to be a trusted partner in the communities we serve.
The Railroad Commission of Texas’s rigorous and comprehensive inspection/audit and enforcement process improves safety by ensuring the compliance of procedures, practices, and training, thus making the industry better every day. We work in conjunction with the Commission, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and industry peers to improve safety across all areas of our transmission and distribution systems. Our focus remains on safety and continuous improvement, including voluntary initiatives to reduce the risk of third party damage to our distribution and transmission systems.”