A comprehensive investigation by The Dallas Morning News found that, since 2006, more than two dozen Texas homes have been damaged or destroyed because of leaks from the network of pipelines owned and operated Atmos Energy Corp., one of the country’s largest natural gas companies. Nine people have died, and at least 22 others were badly injured, but because no single state or federal agency tracks all natural gas accidents, not all deaths and injuries are reported. Reporters Cary Aspinwall and Holly Hacker built a massive database using federal and state pipeline data, lawsuits and inspection and regulatory records to show that Atmos Energy, while reporting $3.3 billion in profits since 2005, has reached numerous settlements with the victims and their families while refusing to take responsibility for the safety dangers of its aging cast-iron pipeline system. Accompanied by informative maps and interactive graphics, these powerful stories disclosed that the state agency that serves as the public’s watchdog has repeatedly failed to hold the gas monopoly accountable, even when people got hurt or died, while the elected officials who oversee the agency reaped generous campaign donations from Atmos Energy and its employees. After the stories were published, a Texas lawmaker introduced a series of pipeline safety bills.
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