WFAA scapegoats Atmos Energy and tries to raise Dallas’s gas bills

The Texas Railroad Commission and WFAA channel 8 may be scapegoating Atmos Energy, Dallas’s natural gas provider, for house explosions it probably didn’t not cause.

The state blamed Atmos for a May 2009 Irving home explosion. Tonight, Brett Shipp, a WFAA reporter, all but blamed Atmos for a November 2009 Mesquite home explosion.

The theory is that deteriorating “Normac couplings” in buried gas distribution lines are leaking the fuel, causing these explosions.

I don’t buy it.

In the Irving case, the state blamed a leaking fitting “under the street.” Yes, as in more than 20 feet away from the house.

Natural gas is lighter than air. It goes up as quickly as it can. That means it’s not going to travel sideways through dirt into someone’s house. Also, it dissipates rapidly like any other gas, like a poofy cloud. So any gas that could reach the outside of a house from a buried line would be faint.

The state’s theory probably breaks several laws of physics. That wisping gas would have to travel laterally from this coupling, in a focused vector, through a yard and through a concrete foundation, and accumulate in a house.

The Mesquite situation is similar. The WFAA cameras clearly showed a gas meter all the way by a fence. And Google Maps Street View shows that the gas lines are in the alley, separated from the house by many feet and a wood fence. (Picture of the next door neighbor’s gas meter in the alley–the exploded house is at 2505 Catalina.) These allegedly faulty couplings would be in lines buried under the alley, at least 20 feet from the house!

I don’t buy that Atmos exploded this house. I think something was wrong inside the house; that’s the homeowner’s responsibility. It’s irresponsible for WFAA to tar Atmos Energy for this.

Why does this matter? WFAA is campaigning for Atmos to replace tens of thousands of these Normac couplings. Maybe they leak more than ideal, but I have yet to see a convincing case that these couplings routinely cause imminent danger.

Furthermore, the cost of replacement is tens of millions of dollars. Guess who pays that? You and me, gas customers! So basically WFAA is campaigning to jack up our rates to fix something that may not be a problem.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

2 thoughts on “WFAA scapegoats Atmos Energy and tries to raise Dallas’s gas bills”

  1. You are wrong, gas does travel along other lines and utilties.Yes it is lighter than air but it must have an escape or it will build and travel. I know, I have worked in the gas business and in fact worked for Atmos and have seen thier lying ways and cover ups. Do you ever notice that they never take repsonsiblity for anything……….its to limit liability. This was a very good company unitl these group of want a bee’s bought and took this company to the unsafe level they are now at.

    1. I don’t buy for a second that our porous ground can tunnel meaningful quantities of gas long enough to cause a house explosion, especially in ways that the homeowner couldn’t have smelled before the event.

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