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Natural Gas Main Leaks a Canary in the Coal Mine

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If you have been keeping up with this blog, you know how I feel about most “accidents.” Most are not truly accidents, in that, if someone was paying attention, many can be avoided. Natural gas explosions are rare, but they can be extremely deadly. Pipelines do not age well. They have a specific lifespan. Natural gas pipelines must be regularly inspected and replaced on a regular schedule to prevent disasters like the explosion that killed a child in Dallas last year. That explosion is leading to the complete replacement of gas lines under an entire section of the city North of Love Field.

The problems with natural gas lines and natural gas main leaks is not limited to Dallas or Dallas County. Just last week Atmos Energy’s latest report to state regulators shows an increase in the number of serious natural gas main leaks in Denton last winter. The report was filed with the Texas Railroad Commission on July 12 and generally covered the period from Jan. 1 through June 30, although it contained some incidents from the last week of December 2017. The Denton Record-Chronicle reported the findings. These findings are like a canary in coal mine, giving Atmos and all of us warning that danger may be on the horizon.

As North Texas goes through the regular cycle of drought shrinking the clay soils of this area and then rain expanding them, natural gas pipelines will always be under pressure of failure. If we are going to have private companies providing services on a regional scope that has the potential to kill and maim, we must make sure that maintenance and regularly scheduled replacement of these dangerous lines occurs. If it does not, and the inevitable does happen, we cannot call the mayhem that is caused an “accident.” It is a failure of the safety system. There are literally thousands of miles of pipelines carrying natural gas throughout Denton County, Collin County and all of North Texas. If one of these pipelines fails and injures or kills when the pipeline was beyond its useful life, or if the pipeline had been showing signs that failure was imminent, then those responsible for repairing or replacing the pipeline had better pray that the survivors don’t find their way to my door.