Procedures are in place to prevent pipeline tragedies

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 6:48 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 7 at 9:42 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

The natural gas line that exploded in Johnson County Monday afternoon is owned by Enterprise Products Partners. It stretches from East to West Texas.

There are questions about what exactly was going on at the site at the time of the blast, and what agency has oversight of this type of work.

The Texas Railroad Commission will be in charge of the investigation, and it is likely their investigators are already at the scene.

But from what we can tell thus far, this was a 36-inch pipeline — also known as a "trunk" line — a pipeline that delivers gas from the processing plant to a distribution point.

Trunk lines are supposed to be regulated, and anyone digging near them is required to place a single call to the Texas Excavation Safety System (800-DIG-TESS), which, in turn, dispatches workers to pinpoint the location of underground gas transmission lines along with cables, water and sewer pipes that might be in the way.

What exactly happened should be determined in short order by Railroad Commission investigators, but as one pipeline safety expert told News 8, this accident should not have happened, and appears to be the fault of the utility company that was digging near the pipeline.

A preliminary incident report should be filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation in the next few hours, with a more detailed report available in the coming weeks.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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