Calling its announcement a "respectful response in disagreement" with state regulators, Centerpoint Energy is disputing the contents of a state regulator's report on a massive 2011 natural gas explosion at the corner of 60th Street and Nicollet Avenue South.
The Texas-based energy company said that its own investigation turned up evidence that water flowing underground had undermined its gas pipeline. State regulators at the Office of Pipeline Safety (MNOPS) had concluded that the leak leading to the explosion was caused by pipe fittings that hadn't been designed to handle the combined weight of the cars, asphalt, and soil atop the buried gas main.
The March 2011 explosion tore an enormous crater in East 60th Street in front of Cub Foods, melted traffic lights and signs, charred trees, damaged nearby cars, and sent a towering plume of burning natural gas into the sky over Southwest Minneapolis.
See photos of the explosion and damage.
"Safety is CenterPoint Energy’s top priority and the company is committed to the safe and reliable operation of pipelines in the communities it serves, Centerpoint's written statement said. "Incidents like 60th Street are extremely rare; however any incident, no matter the size, is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly."
State law requires all natural gas pipeline explosions to be investigated by both MNOPS and by an independent third party brought in by the utility company. Centerpoint hired Plymouth, MN-based Crane Engineering to handle its investigation, which took over 6,000 hours to complete, according to a Centerpoint spokesperson. In response to the report's findings, the spokesperson told Patch, Centerpoint surveyed its pipes for locations that might be vulnerable to similar underground erosion, and reinforced the pipes at the 11 potential problem sites it found.
As of publication time, MNOPS had not returned a call from Patch requesting comment, but this story will be updated as soon as we hear back.