Wyoming explosion raises gas pipeline safety concerns

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Thu, April 24 2014 at 4:14 PM, Updated: Thu, April 24 2014 at 11:47 PM

Malin, Ore. -- A massive explosion and fireball rocked a natural gas plant in western Wyoming Wednesday afternoon.

The shock waves are having an impact on southern Klamath County...and beyond.

The explosion and fire happened at a Williams natural gas plant at the eastern end of the Ruby Pipeline.

That pipeline extends 680 miles from Opal, Wyoming to the town of Malin.

Malin Public Works Director Rob Grounds believes the disaster could have happened in his town...

"I'm sure it could.  Probably back in Opal, they never thought it would happen there, either."

Nobody was hurt in Wednesday's explosion...but all 98 residents of nearby Opal were evacuated. 

Grounds notes that there are plenty of security systems and safeguards in place at the terminal in Malin...

"They're very informative on safety."

However, Wednesday's accident is likely to be brought up by opponents of the proposed 'Pacific Connector' pipeline...which would cross Coos, Douglas, Jackson, and Klamath counties.

The residents of those counties will need to balance the need for jobs and an economic boost...with the potential for a disaster like the one that happened in Wyoming.

But for now, Grounds doesn't believe the pipeline poses an immediate threat...

"I guess when you read it in the news or whatever, it's a concern at that moment - then two weeks later, it's old news."

The cause of Wednesday's explosion is still under investigation.

All 42 workers at the Wyoming natural gas plant have been accounted for.

The explosion has disrupted gas supplies through the Ruby Pipeline.

What do you think? Sound off on our Facebook page and on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

About the Author

Lyle Ahrens

KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's.  He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.

Lyle's job history is quite colorful.  He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand.  A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer.  In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.

Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.  "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain.  Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".

When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.

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