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City of Aspen under state of emergency after natural gas outages

City of Aspen under state of emergency after natural gas outages caused by vandalism

Aspen Police Department via AP
This recent but undated photo from the Aspen, Colo., Police Department shows gas control equipment involved in what authorities say was vandalism they were investigating on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. The vandalism of the town's natural gas system left thousands of residents and visitors without gas in the middle of the busy holiday season. The FBI and state law enforcement officials were working with police to investigate the disruption, which began Saturday. "Earth First!" was found written on a pipe at a natural gas pumping station near the ski resort town.

(The Center Square) – The city of Aspen entered a local state of emergency on Tuesday following a natural gas outage reportedly caused by vandalism. 

The declaration gives Acting City Manager Scott Miller "the tools to protect public health and safety including sheltering vulnerable populations and accessing properties to protect vulnerable properties or individuals," according to a statement from the city.

The outages come after three Black Hills Energy natural gas sites in the area were vandalized on Sunday, two of which included references to the radical environmental advocacy group “Earth First,” The Aspen Times reported. Local law enforcement is leading the investigation with the help of FBI resources, according to the Times.

The outages affected 3,500 Black Hills Energy customers, with service restored for an estimated 2,000 customers as of Tuesday, the company said.

“Our goal is to restore natural gas service to our customers as quickly and safely as possible despite the many conditions making this a difficult process,” Vance Crocker, vice president of operations for Black Hills Energy Colorado, said in a statement. “Every customer is extremely important to us and we want to make sure each one receives the customer service we pride ourselves on providing, and has service restored as quickly as possible.” 

Over 170 technicians are working to relight gas pilots and appliances, the company said.

Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper said the vandalism was “almost, to me, an act of terrorism,” according to the Times.

“It’s trying to destroy a mountain community at the height of the holiday season. This wasn’t a national gas glitch. This was a purposeful act. Someone is looking to make a statement of some kind,” Clapper added.

According to local ordinances, the city manager has the authority to declare an emergency for seven days. The Aspen City Council must approve any extensions beyond that timeframe.

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