Last night, Brett Shipp wrapped up his investigation of the faulty gas pipe couplings and his finding that “Tens of thousands of lives are at risk” and the unsatisfactory and questionable response from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC).
In PART 1 of Shipp’s report we learned:
- In Wylie, TX, Bennie and Martha Cryer were killed when their house exploded.
- Texas Railroad Commission investigation found
“the service line separated from its compression coupling” and the escaping gas had “migrated through the soil” and ignited inside the Cryer’s house a few yards away.
RRC thanked Atmos Energy for their help and gave them a pat on the back.
- Don Deaver, a pipeline safety expert for 33 years, formerly with Exxon questions the RRC investigation.
“They didn’t do any forensic work on the coupling itself,” said Deaver. “They should have taken it and pulled it apart and at least opened it up to see what’s in it.”
- Mud still caked on the coupling casts doubt that it was inspected.
- No mention was made regarding the “legacy” of coupling failures.
- RRC memos from early 1980s warned gas companies nationwide of faulty couplings saying they would not meet Federal Regulations.
- Many Texans have died due to these faulty couplings. Two people in Cleburne died only two months after the RRC vindication of Atmos Energy
- Brett Shipp questions RRC,
With more than 100,000 potentially deadly couplings still in the ground, why have they been reluctant to act?
- RRC Chairman Michael Williams refused to comment–for a year he has refused to comment.
- RRC Director Mary McDaniel stands by her final report, “there’s no need to assume the couplings are not safe.”
From the Texas Railroad Commission website:
About the RRC
The Railroad Commission has several regulatory divisions that oversee the Texas oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry, and the surface mining of coal.
We serve Texas by:
* Our stewardship of natural resources and the environment
* Our concern for personal and community safety
* Our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans
In PART 2 of Shipp’s report we learned:
- hundreds of thousands of these faulty couplings are still in the ground
- Neighbors of the Wylie couple that was killed have reported gas fumes in the area for years but Atmos Energy didn’t smell anything.
- Later 24 gas leaks were found in that neighborhood.
- Atmos says, rather than removing all the old couplings, they replace the couplings after they leak despite Federal regulations calling for action.
NOTE: We have preemptive wars that cost us trillions started under the guise of making us safer. It is too much to ask for some preemptive safety at home to save American lives?
- Inter office email from RRC Director Mary McDaniel disputes her final report findings (see comment in Part 1)
According to an inter-office email just days before the final report was released, Railroad Commission Safety Director Mary McDaniel and her investigator discussed the couplings’ “susceptibility to pull out with stress.”
And, to make it worse, she thanked Atmos in a letter and praised them for a “favorable report.”
- Deaver, the pipeline safety expert (see part 1) had this comment:
“I don’t understand the reason for even making that statement,” he said. “It’s almost suggesting that there’s a lack of independence between the Texas Railroad Commission and the industry its regulating when it gets to be so chummy and makes those statements considering two people were dead.
- A internal RRC memo revealed this recommendation “an expedited program to phase out” the compression couplings attached to the gas meters. A recommendation that McDaniel ignored.
- More explosions. More deaths.
In PART 3 of Shipp’s report we learned:
- New evidence shows RRC suddenly backed off a proposal to force Atmos to replace faulty couplings.
- Minnesota has the same faulty couplings
- For two decades, Federal regulators and industry experts warned that these couplings posed a deadly potential for pullout.
- Minnesota did a real investigation and took swift action–faulty couplings were immediately replaced
- Rather than act to save lives as Minnesota did, the RRC decides to study the issue.
- Elizabeth Ames Jones congratulates RRC on their work:
“You all are doing such a great job in getting so deep into this study,” she said. “I really appreciate it.”
- When asked if there was any reason beside cost for not replacing the faulty couplings, and Atmos engineer responded, “I don’t know.” (see to believe)
I think we need a timeline of these events in order to get the full grasp of the malpractice by the RRC and to follow all the contradictory RRC statements, emails and memos. Maybe I can whip one up later.
For more examples of RRC malpractice see:
Elizabeth Ames on Wrong Track This is not really malpractice but more like RRC chear leading for oil and gas and, well…just stupidity.
The Railroad Commission Informs Me More stupidity with a lie thrown in.
Will Sen. Estes Investigate the RRC for Malpractice?
Railroad Commission too Chummy With Industry it Regulates
Email St. Senator Craig Estes and demand an investigation.