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Firefighters respond Feb. 27 to a house explosion in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Mich. One man died. / Andre J. Jackson, Detroit Free Press

ROYAL OAK, Mich. - A federal agency that investigates pipeline accidents is expected to decide Thursday if it will launch an investigation into an explosion that leveled a house here.

Investigators from the Michigan Public Service Commission are at the scene of Wednesday's explosion that apparently killed a 58-year-old man who lived alone and damaged more than 30 homes here. The explosion, reported just before 5 p.m. EST, shattered the windows of cars, houses and some businesses.

Consumers Energy, a utility that had crews in the area before the explosion, is working with police and fire investigators and the Public Service Commission, according to Consumers Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd. Dodd said The National Transportation Safety Board has contacted Consumers, which was replacing natural gas lines in the area.

Any investigation into the cause of the blast could take considerable time.

The state Public Service Commission has not completed its investigation into a Dec. 29, 2010, explosion that destroyed the William C. Franks Furniture store in Wayne, Mich., that killed two employees and injured the owner.

Consumers Energy, which was involved in that case as well, said its own yearlong investigation left the cause undetermined.

Judy Palnau, a spokeswoman for the Public Service Commission, said commission staff would remain at the explosion site in this suburb 10 miles north of Detroit for as long as needed. Staffers eventually will complete a report, and the commission will determine if it needs to issue an order.

"It is a slow but methodical process," Palnau said, noting that it's "way too early to speculate." She said orders could include fines or instructions on how a utility should conduct similar work in a neighborhood in the future.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

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