Why no disaster declaration for Atmos Energy evacuations?
The City of Georgetown has not declared a disaster during the current Atmos Energy situation. Disaster declarations give local officials the ability to exercise extraordinary powers, including providing liability protection to government agencies and emergency workers or to formally request general assistance from the state and federal governments.
“The City does not have oversight of pipeline safety,” said Mayor Dale Ross. “That role rests with the Texas Railroad Commission. Simply declaring a local disaster does not make new or different resources available that are not already being provided. The City is in regular contact with both Atmos and our partners at Williamson County and the State to ensure this evacuation is brought to resolution as safely as possible.”
“To further ensure a safe and expedient resolution, I have formally requested the Texas Department of Emergency Management to begin an assessment of this situation” said Mayor Ross. “Should the situation evolve, the City stands prepared to declare a disaster and call on additional resources from our fellow governmental agencies.”
During the current event Atmos Energy has made safety their top priority. Atmos Energy has provided hotel accommodations and food stipends for affected residents. The amount of these stipends is adjusted based on individual household needs. These accommodations far exceed what the City would be able to provide evacuees.
Atmos Energy has also paid claims to affected businesses, connected businesses with resources and facilities to continue their operations, and has committed to processing claims throughout the current evacuation and beyond. Atmos Energy has committed to ensuring the people affected by the evacuation are fully compensated for damages that result from this event. The City is also committed to connecting those businesses with resources and partners to ensure they are able to reopen quickly and successfully once the evacuation is lifted.
During the evacuation, Atmos has provided additional security from both private security contractors and off?duty police officers. Atmos and the City of Georgetown conduct daily calls to share updates, discuss repairs, assess needs, and determine the plan of action for the day.
The City of Georgetown has numerous departments providing support as needed to Atmos Energy. The City’s efforts are focused on ensuring the safety of the public, protecting property, and providing information. The City has consulted with Emergency Management officials with Williamson County, the State of Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Railroad Commission.
Late on Wednesday, Feb. 20, Atmos Energy arrived on scene at 507 River Bend in Georgetown to repair an underground natural gas leak. The Georgetown Fire Department and Atmos Energy issued a precautionary evacuation of several residences and businesses in the River Bend area as a result of the initial leak ? which was repaired.
Since then, Atmos Energy has worked to remove residual gas from the ground. This removal process includes venting, vacuuming, evacuation and suction. Atmos Energy has also installed a series of vent wells and retained geologists to assist in these efforts. Dense clay, moisture, and the make?up of the soil has inhibited the evaporation of the gas.
As a safety precaution, Atmos has asked for evacuation in homes or commercial structures to evacuate if they detect an unsafe concentration of natural gas in or near a home or other structure. Atmos has requested electric service be disconnected if any measure of gas is detected inside a structure.