Bozeman, NorthWestern Energy Settle After Deadly Blast

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – NorthWestern Energy’s insurance company will pay the city of Bozeman about $163,000 for costs incurred in the aftermath of a deadly natural gas explosion downtown.

City commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to accept the settlement, even though they were seeking $310,000. The city will not be reimbursed for regular payroll costs it would have incurred had the blast not occurred.

City Manager Chris Kukulski said about 5,000 hours of public employee time were spent on the explosion instead of on other city issues.

The March 5, 2009, blast killed 36-year-old Tara Reistad Bowman and leveled half a city block.

NorthWestern’s CEO has said evidence suggests “external forces” caused the natural gas line to crack and leak, though some lawsuits claim the explosion happened because the company failed to replace substandard natural gas lines that cracked and leaked.

Monday’s settlement does not include any admission of liability by NorthWestern and would release the energy company from any future explosion-related claims made by the city.