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Washington State To Investigate Explosion At LNG Plant

State and federal pipeline safety investigators have been dispatched to the site of an explosion and fire at a liquefied natural gas storage facility in southeastern Washington.

LNG is natural gas that’s been cooled to a liquid form for easier storage. Five people were injured in the early morning blast Monday, but only one remains hospitalized.

The Williams Northwest Pipeline facility sits along the Columbia River just across from Umatilla, Ore. A company spokeswoman says neither of its two massive LNG storage tanks appear to be the source of the explosion.

The state's Pipeline Safety Director, David Lykken, dispatched an investigator to the scene and says a federal investigator will also respond.

“It’s far too early to know whether this was a failure of a piping material or some human error as far as operations go, so it’s way too early but we’ll be asking all those questions.”

The LNG storage facility at Plymouth, Wash., was inspected last fall and no safety violations were found.

The explosion is not expected to result in a major disruption of natural gas supply in Washington or Oregon. But the Williams Pipeline spokeswoman says it’s too early to know if there will be more localized impacts in southeast Washington

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."