Natural Gas Leaks on the Increase
According to a new study, as natural gas pipelines become older and more outdated and begin to crumble, the number of hazardous gas leaks in several states, including Texas, have skyrocketed in the recent past. One of the largest gas utilities in the nation has seen the number of hazardous leaks requiring immediate repair quadruple over the past decade. Over that period of time, a gas leak somewhere in the United States has either destroyed property, hurt or killed someone just about every other day. In all, the most destructive explosions have resulted in 135 dead, more than 600 injured, and have caused around $2 billion in property damage.
According to one survey of data supplied to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, or PHMSA, which regulates pipelines nationally, about one out of every four leaks was caused by corrosion to the cast-iron pipe that is cited as a major cause of many of the most devastating explosions that have happened in the last few years. One such explosion occurred in Austin, Texas in 2012, when what has been described as a “flash fireball” killed one man, left a fire-scarred foundation where the man’s house used to be, and sent a debris field to numerous neighborhood backyards.
Much of the cast-iron pipe believed to be at the heart of the problem can be more than 100 years old, and it is believed to be the age of the pipe that is causing most of the problems. One of the largest gas companies in Michigan reported a 69% increase in corrosion-related hazardous leaks between 2010 and 2013, including a 22% increase in such leaks to service lines that go directly into homes and businesses.
There are a number of causes for the increase in leaks. They can sometimes be caused by weather conditions, or sometimes, the lines will be hit by construction workers who dig in the wrong place. But the most common cause is bare-metal gas pipes rusting and corroding.
According to federal data, there are literally tens of thousands of miles of cast-iron and bare steel gas lines crisscrossing cities and towns all over America. This, despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), among other government safety agencies, has been targeting these hazards for years. The PHMSA, for example, has been demanding that gas utilities replace their aging metal gas pipelines with materials such as plastic for more than a decade, despite the fact that such a thing is not legally required. While the industry has responded, it has a long way to go. The gas utilities claim it’s because of the cost, which is said to be as much as $11 billion to update all gas lines in the entire country, which they would then pass on to consumers.
According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., natural gas has nearly 20 times the energy of TNT, and if it builds, the results can be disastrous. Authorities at both the state and federal level the to do something about this problem, or the number of explosions, fires and other disasters could multiply.
The knowledgeable Natural Gas Utility Lawyers at Hill Law Firm have the experience, and we know how to get the gas companies to sit up and take notice. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving a natural gas leak, please contact Hill Law Firm today.