In the United States, since 1986, pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000 people, and cost over $7 billion in property damage. Out of the 772 pipeline incidents rated as “serious” in the U.S. between 1999-2018, 102 of those happened in Texas. Looking at “significant” incidents, there were 5,712 in the U.S. and 1,210 of those occurred in Texas.
Victims of pipeline explosions and their families often have to overcome not only the immediate trauma from a pipeline explosion, but also potentially high economic and noneconomic losses. Those who survive pipeline explosions often suffer first- and second-degree burns which may leave them disfigured for life.
Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm has the knowledge and expertise to help explain your rights and to maximize your compensation and recovery.
Note: Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm has offices in Houston, Austin, San Angelo, and Marble Falls. However, we have successfully handled serious injury claims for folks throughout Texas. We can travel to meet our clients where it’s most convenient. When it comes to protecting your rights and your case, don’t just go with the closest personal injury attorney, get the best attorney. Click here to see examples of the successful results we’ve achieved for our clients.
Causes of Pipeline Explosions
Pipeline explosions can be caused by a number of things:
- Corroded or otherwise improperly maintained pipes;
- Improper installation;
- Equipment failure;
- Weld failure;
- Human error; and
- Natural disasters.
More than half of the pipelines in this country are at least 50 years old. As these pipes continue to age, we expect to see more and more pipeline accidents and explosions. In fact, corrosion was determined to be the main reason behind 15-20% of all reported “significant” incidents.
Most pipeline explosions happen with natural gas pipelines. An investigation found that more than 2 dozen homes across North and Central Texas have blown up since 2006 because of leaking natural gas lines (which includes pipelines). From those explosions, nine people died and at least 22 were badly injured.
Where are Pipelines in Texas?
There are more than 2.7 million miles of pipeline in the United States, which is more than 11 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. Here in Texas, pipelines are located throughout the state. Not all pipelines are marked, have any building standards, undergo regular inspections, or have any emergency response plans in place. In fact, more than 14,000 new miles of rural gathering lines have been built in Texas since 2014, which is a concern since this is one of the least regulated type of pipeline.
In the last five years, significant pipeline explosions have occurred in Burleson County, Carson County (White Deer), Dallas County (Dallas), DeWitt County (Cuero), Hansford County (Spearman), Harrison County (Marshall), Hutchinson County (Borger), Martin County, Midland County (Greenwood), Panola County, Refugio County, and Robertson County.
Who Regulates Pipelines?
Pipelines can fall under both federal regulations and Texas regulations. Under federal law, pipelines are under the jurisdiction of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Pipeline explosions can also involve the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if workers are injured. The Federal Emergency Regulatory Commission (FERC) also has some control of pipelines and can require that pipeline operators conduct regular inspections of transmission lines with a small robot. Under Texas law, the Texas Railroad Commission oversees the pipelines in the state.
Pipelines can carry either natural gas or hazardous liquids. The pipelines can be large in diameter or they can be small. Pipelines can be designated as rural or being near a highly populated area. They can be categorized as high pressure. Depending on these characteristics, pipelines may or may not be regulated. For instance, rural gathering lines are not currently regulated or monitored even though they have been the source of pipeline explosions.
In 2015, the Texas Railroad Commission conducted a survey of 598 gathering line operators and found that:
- More than 1/3 did not conduct leak surveys;
- More than 1/5 of the systems had never been pressure tested; and
- More than ½ had no corrosion control or monitoring.
Changes to Pipeline Regulation
During the 2019 legislative session in response to a deadly pipeline explosion in Dallas that claimed the life of a child, a Texas law was passed that would: 1) require natural gas pipeline operators to disclose any incident of gas leaks within one hour of becoming aware to the Texas Railroad Commission; 2) require a greater percentage of the riskiest pipelines be replaced every year (8%); and 3) require natural gas line operators to replace all cast iron pipelines by December 31, 2021 in addition to prohibiting any new installation of cast iron, wrought iron, or bare steel pipes.
On the Federal level, PHMSA is enacting new regulations that will become effective on July 1, 2020. These regulations would:
- Extend reporting requirements to certain hazardous liquid gravity and rural gathering lines;
- Require inspection of pipelines in areas affected by extreme weather and natural disasters;
- Require integrity assessments at least once every 10 years of onshore hazardous liquid pipeline segments located outside of high consequence areas that can be inspected by robot;
- Extend the required use of leak detection systems beyond high consequence areas to all regulated, non-gathering hazardous liquid pipelines; and
- Require that all pipelines in or affecting high consequence areas be capable of accommodating in-line inspections tools within 20 years, unless basic construction cannot be modified.
Contact Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm Today
The lawyers at Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm can assist you with:
- Determining the source and cause of the pipeline explosion; and
- Identifying the liable parties.
To win a pipeline explosion case, you need a law firm with expertise to help you figure out these complicated issues. We can also evaluate all the sources of compensation available to you and secure the recovery you deserve.
Other Types of Personal Injury Cases We Can Help You With
In addition to, explosion cases we have extensive experience handling a variety of personal injury case types. Our practice areas include:
- Car accident cases;
- Slip and falls;
- Dangerous premise accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Wrongful death cases;
- Workplace accidents, including oilfield injury claims;
- Commercial vehicle accidents; and
- Defective product accidents.
If you have been the victim of an injury, you can rely on us to use our experience and knowledge to effectively navigate the specifics of your case and protect your best interests.
What to Expect When You Work With Our Lawyers
When you work with lawyers from Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm, you can expect excellence. Our lawyers:
- Work on a contingency fee basis. We will never charge you for services if we are unsuccessful in obtaining a settlement.
- Get quality results. Our lawyers have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients, both in settlement negotiations and via jury verdicts.
- Are invested in you and our community. When you work with a lawyer from Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm, you can expect a lawyer who recognizes that you are the most important person to your claim. We will work hard to ensure that your needs are met. Our lawyers are also dedicated to being involved in the community and making a positive impact outside of the courtroom.
Schedule Your Free Consultation Today
If you’ve been injured in a pipeline explosion, you need a personal injury lawyer fighting for you. Act now to get the representation you need and to increase your chances of obtaining a full recovery.
To schedule a free consultation with no strings attached, please send us a message, call our law firm directly, or stop by our office in person. We look forward to discussing your case and answering your questions.