Firm-Wide blog

Leaking Gas Pipelines Can Cause Natural Gas Explosions at Home

By Burg Simpson
October 16, 2012
3 min read

A natural gas explosion in the home is a family’s worst nightmare, but that’s just what happened to a family from Castle Rock, Colorado, on the morning of October 12, 2012.

The force of the explosion reduced the family home to rubble and sent five family members to the hospital; fortunately, all are expected to make a recovery. While the cause of the accident remains under investigation, it is the latest event to raise concerns among safety experts regarding the United States’ network of natural gas pipelines.

In 2010, a New York Times article suggested that “weak oversight of gas pipelines in the United States…contributed to hundreds of pipeline episodes that have killed more than 60 people, and injured 230 others in the last five years alone.” The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is the federal agency in charge of enforcing safety rules as they relate to the transmission of natural gas, but it is an agency under pressure. According to the New York Times, an examination of the agency’s safety record “pointed to many shortcomings” and that of all enforcement cases issued between 2002 and 2010, approximately 30% of them remained unresolved.

There are many potential causes of natural gas explosions, including pipeline corrosion, poor maintenance, faulty equipment and operator error, but not all are necessarily the responsibility of pipeline operators. Over the past several years, there have been many examples of accidents caused by the negligence of builders and contractors unwittingly digging into underground pipes and supply lines, creating explosions with devastating consequences to people and property.

The dangers of natural gas are not limited to old pipelines. New service lines have their own risks, including “odor fade” due to loss of the odorant added to natural gas. Natural gas from external leaking pipelines can lose odorant as it passes through the soil—and accumulate unnoticed with little or no odor to a house’s occupants.

These types of situations can give rise to complicated legal personal injury claims. “The transportation and distribution of natural gas is an inherently dangerous activity that requires the supplier to exercise the highest possible degree of skill, care and caution. Gas distribution utilities are also required to comply with extensive federal and state regulation. When a gas explosion occurs, it is usually due to a breach of these duties by a gas utility or contractor. The innocent victim suffering personal injury or property damage has a legal claim in these situations. But bringing a lawsuit in gas explosion cases generally requires specialized knowledge and expertise in trying gas explosion cases. The law firm must be thoroughly familiar with the federal regulations, be conversant with engineering experts on the cause of the explosion, and have the resources to bring a case like this to trial.”

Burg Simpson lawyers have represented numerous victims of gas explosions in Colorado and other states. If you have been the victim of a natural gas explosion, Burg Simpson provides free evaluation and consultation regarding your legal rights.

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