Fatal Pipeline Explosion Leads to Lawsuit and Calls for Regulation

Delaney Tercero, 3, was killed in August of 2018 when a nearby pipeline leaked natural gas into her family’s house, resulting in an explosion that injured the entire family and destroyed their home. The state sent investigators to determine if the owners of the pipeline had violated any rules and to discover the cause of the leak. Investigators discovered that the pipeline’s anti-corrosion coating had failed and the pipeline had been leaking for “an undetermined length of time.” However, investigators found that Targa Resources Corp., the company that owns the pipeline, didn’t violate any rules because there are no rules or regulations for this type of pipeline.

Unlike larger and longer pipelines, rural pipelines like the one that caused the death of Delaney Tercero don’t have to be marked, built to any specific standard, or ever inspected. The Texas legislature passed a law in 2013 that allows the Railroad Commission of Texas to police these rural gathering lines, but the legislature hasn’t provided any money for implementing the law. Railroad Commission spokeswoman, Ramona Nye, said the agency found it would need an additional $1.8 million a year to set up a safety program for gathering lines. The Railroad Commission has the authority to investigate these explosions, but in rural areas, the commission’s inspectors may only investigate whether the owner of the pipeline followed existing rules. It’s a tragic irony that investigators are dispatched to see if a company has complied with non-existent rules. What’s even worse is that under the current rules, Targa has no obligation to report the details of the August explosion.

The Tercero family has filed suit against Targa. The Railroad Commission’s report and the Tercero family’s suit indicate that the steel wall of the pipeline and the tar coating that was supposed to prevent corrosion had been compromised by a hole in the pipe that allowed the gas to leak.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed due to a residential or commercial gas explosion, contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.