WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014  Two people are dead and more than a dozen injured. And that number is, tragically, expected to grow as this accident unfolds.

This morning’s explosion in New York City is a terrible reminder of just how dangerous working in and around natural gas can be, of how crucial proper safety precautions are, and how important it is to report gas leaks in a timely manner.

While the exact details of the event are not yet available, a few facts have become known. What we know so far is:

  • Neighborhood residents smelled gas yesterday
  • This morning—minutes before the explosion—a call was made from a nearby building to Con Edison reporting a gas leak
  • Neighbors reported this morning that the odor of gas was far stronger than it had been yesterday, using words like “overwhelming” to describe the odor
  • Con Edison teams were literally on their way to the scene when the explosion occurred
  • It remains unknown if a building permit was pulled for any construction on-site, but it is possible that there was construction/renovation work occurring

As the former head of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and creator of the national 811 single-call system for assistance in locating utility lines, my sole desire is to uphold safety. While it is unclear at this time whether construction activity caused the explosion, this event and another gas explosion just days ago in New Jersey reinforce the need for a top-to-bottom, comprehensive national review and upgrade of our natural gas infrastructure system.

Too often, investigations into events like today’s reveal the cause to be old, outdated pipes, misplaced pipes, poor pipe locating technology and/or inaccurate system maps, or unsafe construction practices.

To prevent this morning’s tragedy from repeating time and time again across the country, we must embark on a national effort to improve our infrastructure, to improve our safety standards, and to advance our underground pipeline mapping system.

The neighbors this morning did their job—they smelled gas and they called it in. Now we must do our job and do everything we can to try to prevent this from ever happening again.

To schedule an interview with Mr. McCown, please call or email Jill Donovan, at 202.997.8706 or jdonovan@nouveaucorp.com