Dallas County judge wants more transparency from Atmos

At least one Dallas County official believes Atmos Energy needs to be more transparent after the gas leak explosion that killed a 12-year-old girl in Northwest Dallas.

Currently, it’s not easy for homeowners to get information about the age and type of pipes in their neighborhoods.

FOX 4 has learned the pipe to the home that exploded on Espinosa Drive was not even on Atmos Energy’s radar to replace. It raises questions about if Atmos' method to assess the safety of pipes is working.

People who live in the Northwest Dallas neighborhood where a 12-year-old girl in an explosion knew there was something wrong with the natural gas lines. They had smelled gas and witnessed two other close calls in the days prior to Michellita Rogers’ death.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says Atmos failed to identify the neighborhood was at risk.

“The pipe under Michellita Rogers’ house was not in the que to be replaced because it wasn't under their algorithm showing signs of failure,” the judge said.

In 2011, the Texas Railroad Commission passed a rule requiring a risk assessment system that is supposed to catch situations like this one before an explosion. The oldest pipes in Dallas are cast iron that date back to the 1920s.

“We've got to step up this replacement,” Jenkins said. “In 21 states, they've already completely removed cast iron pipes."

Six months ago, Atmos told Judge Jenkins in a letter that it would take five more years to remove all the cast iron in the county.

"We need to get that out of the ground. But there are other problems as well,” Jenkins said. “The steel pipe, the railroad commission has asked that that be replaced. That's aged out as well. And then there are couplings that are believed to be defective."

Former railroad commissioner Michael Williams says no one should panic.

“Incidents — as horrible as they are, as horrible as the one that took the life of a 12-year-old — those don't happen that often,” Williams said. “So let's not get the public all concerned and in an uproar that something is going to happen on their street."

But Atmos won't reveal where the old pipes are.

“I think that's very important that our citizens be allowed to know what's underneath them,” Jenkins said.

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