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State pipeline staff propose settlement in Avista’s response to 2008 Odessa gas explosion
Jan. 7, 2011
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Avista Corp. agreed today to pay a $200,000 fine for actions that resulted in a natural gas explosion and fire that destroyed part of an Odessa home and injured two people in December 2008.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s (UTC) Pipeline Safety Program investigators concluded that the explosion was caused by a leak from a cracked section of plastic natural gas pipeline that was improperly installed.
The company and commission staff reached a settlement in which Avista agreed to pay the proposed $200,000 fine. The matter now goes before the UTC for review.
“Consequently, there is a direct link between the improper installation of the pipe and the gas leak that resulted in the explosion, and in serious personal injury and property damage,” said the pipeline safety staff in the signed settlement agreement.
Odessa residents Roger Reyes and Cassandra McClure were injured in the blast. Both individuals have reached a separate legal settlement with Avista.
The UTC complaint filed last June alleged that Avista violated two state agency rules by installing the pipe without adequate support and protection and prematurely removing the damaged pipeline section.
The staff’s conclusions are not binding on the commission and the UTC must approve the settlement before it would go into effect.
In addition to monetary penalties, Avista agrees to take specific actions to ensure the utility’s gas pipeline system is safe and in compliance with UTC regulations. For example, Avista would train local city and county personnel for excavations in the areas outfitted with plastic pipe, to reduce risk of damage to the pipe and to provide Avista opportunities to inspect the pipe when it is exposed.
Other terms of the settlement call for Avista to perform annual leak surveys on the plastic pipe that was installed in the utility’s natural gas distribution system prior to 1987. Avista installed the plastic pipe in Odessa in 1981.
Established by the Legislature in 1955, the UTC’s Pipeline Safety Program regulates the safety practices of 28 pipeline companies and conducts safety inspections on more than 24,000 miles of natural gas and hazardous-liquid pipelines in Washington.
Spokane-based Avista provides natural-gas service to about 146,000 customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.
Staff contact: Marilyn Meehan
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