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Pullman farmer could face criminal charges for alleged gas pipeline rupture

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(Center Square) – A farmer in Pullman could soon face criminal charges for allegedly rupturing a natural gas pipeline while digging on his property last month.

During a Thursday meeting of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, agency investigator Scott Rukke delivered a report about the Nov. 8 incident.

“Farmer Brad Meyer is facing two violations of Washington’s Dig Law for failing to notify the Utilities and Transportation Commission before excavating on his property and causing damage to a natural gas pipeline,” said Rukke.

Rukke said Meyer didn’t have an excavation confirmation code that’s required when working within 35 feet of a pipeline.

Some 37,000 Avista customers between Pullman, Wash. and Lewiston, Idaho, were without power for nearly a week while repair crews worked to fix the damaged line.

Rukke told UTC Commissioners, “this is one of the worst natural gas pipeline outages in United States history.”

Repair and service restoration costs are in excess of $5 million, according to the investigative report.

Rukke asked the commission to request that the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office charge Meyer with a misdemeanor for violating the law regarding the confirmation code.

Commissioner Milt Doumit and the other two members unanimously agreed to forward the recommendation and report to the prosecutor for potential charges.

“This is very serious and could have been even more serious, I mean it’s a miracle almost that death or injury was avoided,” said Doumit.

Hundreds of utilities from across the country sent crews to the region to restore natural gas service.

The state agency will not release a final report to the public until after the prosecutor’s office in Whitman County completes its review of the case.

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