Greenwood businesses still reeling from explosion seek 'justice' from PSE
Businesses are still rebuilding in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood after a natural gas explosion there last March. Now, some of those businesses are calling on Puget Sound Energy to do more to help them recover.
State regulators found that PSE violated safety rules, leading to the explosion.
Greenwood businesses say the utility has not helped them financially in the aftermath. So this week, they say they are seeking justice from Puget Sound Energy. Business owners are requesting that state lawmakers require utilities to give financial support up front when they are at fault for damages. Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien is helping with the request.
O'Brien: "You know, by the time Puget Sound Energy may be ready to get their checkbook out, these businesses may not exist anymore, and yet small businesses and residents didn't do anything wrong, and that seems patently unfair in our process."
He says one idea is for utilities to have a fund similar to FEMA's in which businesses affected by a disaster could apply for relief immediately. A Puget Sound Energy spokesperson says they do have a claims process and have approved claims for some Greenwood businesses.
State regulators have suggested that PSE pay $3.2 million in fines. Officials won't vote on the fines until sometime this summer, more than a year after the explosion.
Meanwhile, another damaged Greenwood business, The Kouzina, plans to close next month because of financial losses. Dozens of businesses were damaged, and three businesses were destroyed in the March explosion.
O’Brien says on top of the request, businesses have a question for PSE: how will they prevent an explosion of the same scale from happening again? That’s also a priority for state regulators. Utilities and Transportation Commission staff recommend PSE “review all previously abandoned service lines to verify compliance and provide a plan for identifying and mitigating any additional” lines that are abandoned but still connected to gas.