BROOKWOOD, Ala. (AP) — A late-night explosion at a natural gas pipeline in rural west Alabama is under investigation by federal agents, authorities said Friday, and a company said it was offering a $25,000 reward for what it called an attack linked to a labor dispute.
Someone called 911 around 11:40 p.m. Wednesday and reported hearing a loud noise along a road in eastern Tuscaloosa County, said Investigator Jessica McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
No one was hurt, she said, and state and federal bomb squads were called after officers realized an explosion had occurred at a pipeline, which is located near an entrance to a coal mine operated by Warrior Met Coal Inc. The pipeline, owned by the company, was damaged, an industry group said in a statement.
Agents with both the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating, FBI spokesperson Paul Daymond said.
Warrior Met Coal, where workers with the United Mine Workers of America have been on strike for nearly a year, said it believed the explosion was an “attack” linked to labor strife. It offered the reward in a statement from the Alabama Mining Association, a trade group that also called the explosion an attack.
“As a critical infrastructure industry, it is imperative we protect our assets from acts of violence and vandalism to ensure public safety,” the mining group said.
Phil Smith, a spokesperson with the union, said it “condemns violence in any form, whether it be the violence the company continues to subject our members and their families to by needlessly prolonging this strike, or any other violent act.”
“Both sides need to be working to settle this strike,” he said.
The United Mine Workers went on strike April 1, 2021, at two company facilities with more than 1,100 workers after contract negotiations with Warrior Met Coal failed to produce a deal. Both the union and the company have accused each other of violence during the walkout.