Tuesday, September 5, 2023

KDKA: Natural Gas Gathering Pipeline Crashes Into, Thru Westmoreland County Home And A Loophole In State Law That Doesn’t Regulate Gathering Pipelines For Safety

On December 30, 2022,
KDKA TV in Pittsburgh broadcast an exclusive report about a natural gas pipeline that broke loose from its cribbing while under construction and crashed into and through a Westmoreland County home in Allegheny Township.

The report quotes Anthony Ford, the teenage son of the homeowners, as saying he walked into his home a few days before the KDKA story and smelled natural gas.

“I went down in the basement to check everything out, and there was a huge giant pipe in our house,” said Ford.  “[The pipe was] 12 inches around. It was about 35,000 pounds, and it's 700 feet [long].”

“[It] wrecked our house,” said Ford. “There were three eight-inch thick concrete walls it blasted through. It's pretty bad, but it could have been a lot worse.”

“We normally have Christmas here, but we went up to our camp. And if we had it here, we'd all be in the basement,” Ford explained.  “It’s not an easy fix.”

The KDKA report said Hyperion Midstream, a subsidiary of Olympus Energy, was responsible for the pipeline crashing into the Ford’s home and the company issued this statement--

“On the evening of December 28, 2022, Hyperion Mainstream identified that a section of pipe being stored in connection with the construction of the Porter to Zeus Pipeline released from its cribbing and impacted a private home. This section of pipe has been removed from the residence, and Hyperion is working closely with the resident."

The reporter-- Ross Guidotti-- said, “When you're actually standing there looking at it, [it]  defies logic, but nevertheless, the pictures prove it. So what's next for the Ford family?  They're awaiting their insurance adjuster to let them know whether they'll ever be able to go back into the house or if it's even remotely repairable.”

Click Here to watch the KDKA report.

Public Utility Commission

The state Public Utility Commission has jurisdiction over safety issues related to natural gas, petroleum and hazardous liquids in Pennsylvania.

PUC spokesperson Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said, however, “Per the [Pipeline] Safety Division, that incident is/was outside the PUC’s jurisdiction.”

The specific reason it was outside their jurisdiction was it was a midstream natural gas gathering pipeline that runs between shale gas well pads.

Had it been another type of pipeline, the PUC might have had jurisdiction.

The PUC estimates there are from 60,000 to 100,000 miles of natural gas gathering pipelines in 33 counties, according to testimony presented to the Senate and House Emergency Preparedness and Veteran Affairs Committees in 2016.  Read more here.

Some gathering pipelines were added to the PA One Call program in 2017 to help avoid accidental strikes during construction, but not to regulate safety of the pipelines themselves.  Read more here.

There have been recommendations for strengthening pipeline safety beginning with a 2016 Pipeline Task Force report commissioned by Gov. Wolf  [Read more here.]  and at various Senate and House hearings for the last 13 years [Read more here.] but nothing has been done  [Read more here]

Frustration in the ability of state law to prevent damage caused by pipeline construction related to the Mariner East Pipeline can be illustrated by a 2018 quote from Republican Sen. Don White (Indiana County) at a Senate Committee meeting-- “We should be able to deal with that company and put them out of business.”  Read more here.

There isn’t even a requirement owners of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines carry insurance or show they can pay for damages if they explode, leak or kill someone.  Read more here.

Department of Environmental Protection

Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson John Repetz reported the agency received a complaint about the Westmoreland County incident on December 30, 2022.  DEP staff spoke with the complainant on January 4, 2023 and conducted an onsite inspection the same day.

“Staff also followed-up with the complainant after the inspection.

“In this instance, staged material (pipe) came loose from its cribbing and rolled downhill. 

“This material staging is not part of the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit. At the time of inspection in the area of the staged material, DEP did not observe violations contrary to the ESCGP [Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit] that could have potentially contributed to the incident. 

“Because the damage to the complainant's residence is considered to be a civil matter outside of DEP’s enforcement authority regarding pollution, erosion/sedimentation, and site stability, the complaint was closed. 

A “civil matter” means the Ford family has to rely on their own homeowners insurance and possibly a settlement with Olympus Energy to make them whole.

DEP’s inspection report for January 4, 2023 shows DEP issued five notices of violation “for sediment laden discharge overtopping” erosion controls and threatening to cause pollution.

It also included the recommendation Olympus Energy “ensure that staged equipment is secured during cessation of activities to mitigate the risk of future incidents from occurring.”

Olympus Energy responded on February 24, 2023 only to the notices of violation by saying its erosion and sedimentation controls were functioning “in such a manner as to prevent the potential of pollution to the waters of the Commonwealth.”

There was no mention in the response of the pipeline breaking loose and crashing into the home.

There were no follow up compliance actions by either the PUC or DEP to the incident.

That Same Week

That same week in December there were three other major incidents with natural gas infrastructure in the Southwest--

-- December 25 Christmas Day Explosion: Energy Transfer reported a nine and a half hour uncontrolled release of ethane and other vapors from its Revolution Cryogenic Natural Gas Processing Plant in Smith Township, Washington County during a Christmas Day explosion and fire at the plant.  Read more here.

-- December 26 10,000 Gallon Compressor Station Spill: MarkWest Liberty Midstream had a 10,000 gallon spill at the Imperial Natural Gas Compressor Station in Robinson Township, Washington County that flowed off site through the stormwater drainage system.  Read more here.

-- December 27 Release Of 1.1 Million Cubic Feet Of Gas From Pigging Facility: On December 27, a malfunction at the CNX Oak Springs Natural Gas Pipeline Pigging Station in South Franklin Township, Washington County resulted in the release of an estimated 1.1 million cubic feet of natural gas and hazardous air pollutants.  Read more here.

And Now Plum Boro Explosion

On August 13, a gas explosion destroyed a home in Plum Borough, Allegheny County and damaged others in the neighborhood killing six residents. Read more hereRead more here.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation by multiple agencies, but there are multiple conventional and shale gas wells in the area and TribLive.com reported DEP found a “pinhole leak” in a natural gas gathering line within 300 to 350 feet from the homes.  Read more here.

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - September 2 to 8; Equitrans Issued NOVs For Failing To Provide DEP Inspectors Access To Facilities As Requested  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - September 9 [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 47 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In September 9 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]


-- AP: Investigators Pinpoint House As Source Of Gas Explosion That Killed 6 In Plum Boro, Allegheny County

-- TribLive: Investigators Say Cause Of Fatal Plum Boro Gas Explosion Came From Inside The Home

-- The Derrick - Makayla Keating: Officials Update Sugarcreek Boro On Continuing Reno Water Issues In Venango County, Aqua PA Still Hauling Water To Keep System Going; DEP To Hold Public Meeting  [Water Supply Contaminated By Conventional Oil Well Wastewater]  [PDF of Article]

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Lessons Of Equitrans 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Natural Gas Storage Facility Blowout Just Starting To Surface As Gas Injection Season Nears 

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Equitrans Names New CEO To Coincide With Completion Of Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline Project

-- DEP Holds Sept. 19 Meeting On Ethane Chilling Expansion Project At Energy Transfer Marketing In Marcus Hook Boro, Delaware County

-- University Of Pittsburgh News: Pitt Studies Link Unconventional Natural Gas Development To Childhood Cancer, Asthma Attacks 

-- Inquirer Editorial: Natural Gas Development Is Making Pennsylvanians Sick, Lawmakers Must Act 

-- TribLive Guest Essay: Leaders Aren’t Helpless And Must Take Action To Protect Constituents From Natural Gas Development Health Impacts - By Tom Pike, Penn Twp., Westmoreland County

-- The Daily Item Guest Essay: Is Natural Gas Development Good For Pennsylvania? $3.8 Billion In PA Taxpayer Subsidies; University Of Pittsburgh Health Studies; Methane Leaks; Jobs Decline - By Sandy Field, Climate Reality Project - Susquehanna Valley Chapter

-- Reading Eagle Guest Essay: PA Farmers Benefit From Strong Natural Gas Industry, Don’t Adopt A Severance Tax - By Matt Espenshade, President Of PA State Grange

-- Observer-Reporter: Operating In Marcellus Energizes Range Resources  [Puff Piece On Shale Gas Industry, Nothing On Real Impacts To Environment, Health In PA’s Most Densely Drilled County-- Washington] 

-- The Guardian: Report - Natural Gas Projects In Australia Risk Exposing People To Cancer And Birth Defects  [Following University Of Pittsburgh Studies]

-- NJ Spotlight News - Jon Hurdle: Feds Suspend Rule Allowing Natural Gas To Be Shipped By Train, Another Blow To Plan For LNG Natural Gas Export Terminal In South Jersey 

-- Scranton Times Editorial: US DOT Defuses Rolling Bombs [Shipping LNG Natural Gas By Train] For Now

-- Bloomberg: Higher Natural Gas Price In Europe Makes Holding Back Supplies For A Month Lucrative

-- Washington Examiner: Fragile LNG Natural Gas Market Vulnerable To Major Price Swings, Supply Shortages

-- Wall Street Journal: Saudi Oil Production Cuts Send World Diesel Prices Soaring

-- AP: Oil Prices Spike As Saudi Arabia, Russia Extend 1.3 Million Barrel A Day Oil Cut Thru December

-- Inside Climate News: New PA Legislation Aims To Classify Oil & Gas Wastewater As Hazardous Waste

-- Utility Dive: PJM, Natural Gas, Other Electric Generators Reach Agreement To Resolve $1.8 Billion In Winter Storm Elliot Nonperformance Penalties; Details Confidential Now But Will Be Made Public Later In September

-- Wall Street Journal: Race To Drill America’s Longest Oil And Gas Wells [PA Included]

Related Articles This Week:

-- KDKA: Natural Gas Gathering Pipeline Crashes Into, Thru Westmoreland County Home And A Loophole In State Law That Doesn’t Regulate Gathering Pipelines For Safety  [PaEN]

-- DEP Provides Oil & Gas Advisory Board With Updates On Well Plugging Financial Assurance; Pitt Health Studies; Funding Options For Program; Civil Penalty Policy  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Hosts Sept. 29 Online Training On New Chapter 105 Environmental Assessment Alternatives Guidance  [PaEN] 

-- State Dept. Of Health Invites Citizens To File Environmental Health Complaints Related To Natural Gas Development; Health Will Also Review Environmental Test Results  [PaEN] 

 -- Republican Rep. Krupa Introduces HB 1656 To Ban Oil, Gas Wastewater Injection Wells To Protect The Public From Radioactive, Toxic Materials  [PaEN] 

-- Independent Fiscal Office Reports 2nd Quarter Natural Gas Production Increased 0.3% Over Prior Year; Dramatic Slowdown In Drilling New Shale Gas Wells Taking Hold  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Preliminary Test Results Not Indicative Of Stray Gas Migration Cause Of Plum Boro Home Explosion In Rustic Ridge Allegheny County  [PaEN] 

-- PUC: No Evidence Public Utility Natural Gas Equipment Caused 2022 Hialeah Dr. Home Explosion In Plum Boro, Allegheny County  [PaEN]

-- Legal Victory Puts Hellbender Back On Track For Federal Endangered Species Protection - By Waterkeeper Alliance   [PaEN]

[Posted: September 5, 2023]   PA Environment Digest

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