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Avista agrees to fine in Odessa explosion

Avista filed a settlement agreement Friday with Washington state regulators that would, if approved, resolve all issues stemming from a December 2008 natural gas explosion and fire that damaged a garage and injured two people in Odessa.

As part of the settlement agreement, Avista would pay a $200,000 fine. The Spokane-based utility has reached separate settlements with the two people injured by the explosion in the small farming community about 75 miles southwest of Spokane.

Avista officials negotiated the agreement with staff at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The agreement will be reviewed by the three-member commission, which can accept or reject it.

State regulators initially recommended fines in excess of $1 million.

The explosion was caused by a leak in a section of 2-inch gas distribution pipe. Investigators determined that the plastic pipe was improperly embedded in a rock material that caused a crack in the line.

A lit cigarette held by Roger Reyes inside the garage of his parents’ home ignited the gas. He was taken to the burn center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Cassandra McClure also was injured by the explosion.

The proposed settlement calls for additional education for city, county and state employees and third-party contractors responsible for excavations near similar pipe to reduce the risk of future explosions.

Tags: Avista, UTC

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