Local Government

Atmos Energy Says 3-Year Infrastructure Replacement Plan May Be Feasible

Given current record-breaking rainfall, this would be a good thing. But it still feels like too little too late.

I received an email on Friday with the Dallas City Council’s agenda for Wednesday, along with a memo to Council from City Manager T.C. Broadnax about the requested acceleration of Atmos Energy’s Infrastructure replacement. Back in April, weeks after a natural gas explosion killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers, Atmos indicated that it could replace all cast-iron pipes in five years, by 2023. Council members objected to the timeframe, but company leaders would not commit to a quicker replacement plan.

Apparently Atmos now says it can replace the pipes in three years if they are able to increase the number of crews 40 percent by the end of next year. But it remains to be seen if that volume of qualified crews is a realistic option. Given the fact that one of the contributing factors to the string of February leaks was heavy rainfall, our current weather patterns seem to make haste a top priority. Given the Dallas Morning News‘ investigative report yesterday, outlining how more than two dozen homes in North and Central Texas have blown up since 2006, while Atmos was earning billions in profits, the question remains why they didn’t start hiring and training crews sooner. Here’s the memo in full:

After Atmos Energy announced a plan earlier this year to accelerate replacement of their cast iron pipe in 3 years instead of 4 years, the Mayor requested information on what it would cost and potential rate implications of a more expedited schedule. On August 16, 2018, a City of Dallas team, comprised of staff from the City Attorney’s Office and the Public Works Department, met with several members of Atmos Energy’s leadership team to discuss the Mayor’s request for a more expedited replacement schedule for Atmos Energy’s infrastructure. While Atmos Energy has accelerated its cast iron and steel pipe replacement programs, at the end of the August 16th meeting, it was understood that the sparse availability of qualified crews and construction materials, and not necessarily rate implications, are the driving factors with not being able to further accelerate replacement of Atmos Energy’s infrastructure.

During the meeting, the Atmos Energy team provided further details on the plan to ramp up the number of crews by 40% to approximately 180 by the end of 2019. The increase of crews will help Atmos to achieve replacement of all cast iron and a majority of its steel service lines in the City of Dallas by the end of 2021. During the August 16th meeting, Atmos Energy also discussed its risk model and its influence on the sequence of areas in which Atmos Energy will next work.

As Atmos Energy has identified the availability of qualified crews and construction materials as major barriers to further accelerate their infrastructure replacement programs, City of Dallas staff will continue to ensure that Atmos Energy has all of the necessary support in the coordination of their infrastructure replacement programs.

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