ONG Agrees To Pay More Than $1 Million After House Explosion
OKLAHOMA CITY - After months of investigating into a house explosion, Oklahoma Natural Gas settled with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for $1,010,000 at a hearing Wednesday morning.
The home at 12505 Whispering Hollow Drive in Oklahoma City exploded in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, after neighbors had reported a gas-like odor in the neighborhood.
The blast sent debris as far as six blocks and was felt up to two miles away, according to reports from the surrounding area.
It leveled one home with a man sleeping inside. He survived but was badly burned. The explosion also injured a few others and damaged neighboring homes.
The investigation revealed three key violations that lead up to the explosion.
According to Oklahoma Corporation Commission documents, ONG failed to find the cause and monitor eight leaks over time in the line beneath the neighborhood and didn't follow protocol when inspecting the leak that caused the blast.
Initially, ONG blamed faulty workmanship when the line was installed but took full responsibility on Wednesday.
“We apologize for this incident, we take full responsibility for what happened in January,” ONG spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said after the OCC hearing.
Ballard added ONG has already begun inspecting similar pipelines around the state, accounting for roughly one percent of all the company’s lines. She said they will be making repairs as necessary but will not be replacing the lines full stop. She expected the inspection to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
However, victims of the explosion said on Wednesday the settlement was only a slap on the wrist from OCC.
“A million dollar fine from the corporation commission is just ridiculous honestly,” Michael Boyd said.
Boyd's grandparents, who are also his clients as an insurance agent, live next door to the explosion scene. He skipped the hearing out of frustration and thinks the Commission didn't do enough to punish ONG.
“I think the corporation commission should do a full investigation into all the records and ONG has a statement saying 'oh well everything is safe and great' well that's all fine and dandy but prove it,” he said.
Boyd added he estimated the damage in the neighborhood was “five to six times higher” than the settlement amount.
He said several families have already settled with the corporation civilly and some are still pending, but called them private matters which would be done away from the public eye.
The settlement isn't final yet, OCC commissioners still have to approve it at a meeting which is expected to happen either Nov. 1 or Nov. 3, according to an OCC lawyer.