Kinder Morgan aims to reopen Coolidge pipeline following deadly 2021 explosion

Arizona's Family confirmed with the pipeline company, Kinder Morgan, of its submission to federal regulators for approval to reopen the line.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 10:43 PM MST
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COOLIDGE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s been nearly two years since a gas line exploded in Coolidge, which killed a father and his daughter. Now the line’s owner, El Paso Natural Gas Company, L.L.C (EPNG), a subsidiary of natural gas giant Kinder Morgan, is requesting approval to restart the repaired gas line operations.

In a statement, EPNG confirmed it submitted a request to federal regulators last week.

“Hopefully, other communities won’t have to go through what mine did,” said State Senator TJ Shope, whose district includes Coolidge. Shope said he had not heard from the company about its plan to reopen the line. However, he did say they’ve kept an open line of communication with him since the incident.

“The entity had operated for decades with zero to few incidents, so they have proven they can. Unfortunately, we have a horrible incident in very recent memory,” said Sen. Shope. Like others in the community, Shope is still healing after losing Luis Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter Valeria in August 2021.

Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson said he hadn’t heard about reopening the line from the company.

In the preliminary report released in late 2022, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found the gas pressure from the pipeline installed in 1986 was “well under” what federal regulators allowed. However, the NTSB is still working to determine what caused the line rupture.

In 2003, another Kinder Morgan line broke in Arizona, this time in Tucson. In response, the late Sen. John McCain said at the time, “The rupture has raised serious questions about the condition of Kinder Morgan’s pipelines.”

State Senator Shope said if the company opens the line again, it must show it can be done safely. “We have to give our citizens peace of mind that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing to keep people safe,” said Shope.

Arizona’s Family reached out to the NTSB. Agency officials said they didn’t have a timeframe for when the final report will be complete, but they will reach out as soon as it’s published. We also asked Kinder Morgan how soon operations will begin if it receives approval from PHMSA. An NTSB spokesperson said the agency is working to address our questions.