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The Rogers family's home is at 3534 Espanola Drive.
The Rogers family's home is at 3534 Espanola Drive.
Dallas County

Atmos Says Its Gas Lines Are Safe; City Council, Explosion Victims' Attorney Not so Sure

Atmos Energy officials went to City Hall on Wednesday to say that the company has made good. Since the February gas line explosion that killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers, Atmos President and CEO Mike Haefner said, the company has done everything it can to ensure that its pipes, the ones that snake underground through neighborhoods across Dallas, are safe for the people who live on top of them.

"The past two months have certainly been terribly difficult for our whole community and for Atmos Energy," Haefner said. "I can assure that our system is safe today and that, with the investments we've made, it's safer than it's ever been."

Haefner and David Park, Atmos' senior vice president of utility operations, said that according to a report Atmos commissioned from civil engineer John Bryant, a combination of heavy rain and the geological makeup of the area surrounding the Rogers family's home in northwest Dallas led to the three explosions that rocked the neighborhood in late February.

"It's a totally unique confluence of these geological, hydrological formations that Dr. Bryant is helping us understand," Park said. "One or two or three of those factors would not have been enough [to cause the explosion]."

Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs didn't buy the company's explanation. Despite the heavy rain, he argued, other infrastructure in the Rogerses' neighborhood remained intact.

It's hard to imagine a more immediate or dire threat to our security than leaky gas mains underneath our neighborhoods.EXPAND
It's hard to imagine a more immediate or dire threat to our security than leaky gas mains underneath our neighborhoods.
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"In this particular region of Dallas, at this particular time, why didn't water mains break?" Griggs asked.

"I don't know the answer to that," Haefner said.

"Why didn't sewer lines break?" Griggs asked.

"I don't know the answer to that," Haefner said.

Griggs went on, asking why swimming pools didn't crumble and why sidewalks, streets and alleys kept their structures.

Haefner had no answers for any of the council member's questions and would not promise that his company would replace its remaining cast-iron lines before 2023.

For Marquette Wolf, one of the attorneys representing the Rogerses in a lawsuit against Atmos, Haefner's lack of explanations was telling.

"Relying on this geology report that was written and published within five days of this young lady's death — for them to claim that [the conditions that caused the explosion] are unique to this area suggests that they've looked at every other place in the county — that just doesn't make any sense," Wolf said. "I think Councilman Griggs made the most salient point of all, which is 'Why are only your old, worn-out pipes breaking when none of the other pipe systems are breaking?"

Wolf said nothing he heard Wednesday changes anything about his clients' lawsuit. Atmos, he said, should've taken steps to update its aging system before there was a risk of any home explosions. The pipe that ruptured in the Rogerses' alley was installed at least 71 years ago, Wolf said, and has a lifespan of about 60 years.

"These pipes have an expiration date. After that date, failure can happen foreseeably at any moment," Wolf said. "That moment was at least 11 years past in that neighborhood before this happened."

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