Columbia Gas of Kentucky did not violate any safety rules at a Lexington hotel that exploded last year after a natural gas leak, according to an investigation by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.
A car hit an above-ground gas meter Sept. 7 outside Fairfield Inn & Suites in Beaumont Centre, and a resulting gas leak fueled a large explosion. The blast collapsed a large portion of the 60-room hotel, causing severe damage to three floors. Although the hotel was 70 percent occupied at the time, employees and rescue workers were able to evacuate the building before the explosion, and no one was seriously injured.
Fire investigators were unable to determine what sparked the explosion, which occurred a few minutes after the collision.
The gas company followed state and federal pipeline safety regulations regarding protection of meters from accidental damage, according to a news release from the PSC.
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When the Fairfield Inn meter was installed in 1994, federal safety regulations required meters to be installed in accessible locations and "protected from corrosion and other damage."
The regulation was amended in 2003 and now requires that "each meter and service regulator, whether inside or outside a building, must be installed in a readily accessible location and be protected from corrosion and other damage, including, if installed outside a building, vehicular damage that may be anticipated."
The meter at Fairfield Inn & Suites was placed 14 feet from the nearest pavement, meeting the standard in place before 2003.
Fire investigators determined that the driver of a 2014 Kia Soul was trying to park on the west side of the hotel when the vehicle accelerated suddenly. The vehicle hopped the concrete curb and crossed the sidewalk, crashing into the gas meter.
Columbia Gas of Kentucky adhered to its own written standards and procedures for gas meter installations and followed state and federal regulations, the PSC review found.
In a letter to the utility, PSC executive director Jeff Derouen said, "No further review is needed regarding the incident, and this matter will be considered closed."
Attached to the letter was the PSC's 114-page investigation.
Derouen recommended the utility reflect on the explosion and determine whether additional safety precautions are needed.
Concrete pillars have been installed around the gas meter at the hotel, which reopened in May.