Category Archives: Safety

Dominion Claims Meetings – With Nonexistent Group

Wintergreen Property Owners Association has submitted a letter to FERC pointing out that, although ACP and Dominion say they ” ‘are currently working with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LPECs) to develop Emergency Response plans for construction’ there is no LEPC within Nelson County and ACP has held no discussion with the Nelson County Emergency Services Council. Per Wintergreen Fire and Rescue Chief Curtis Sheets, ‘Regarding evacuation planning for Wintergreen in the event of a pipeline emergency, there have been no meetings. In their response to Section 106 of the FERC filing, Dominion references their work with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC). There is no active committee in Nelson County Virginia.’ Nelson relegates this responsibility to the Nelson County Emergency Services Council (NCESC). Wintergreen does hold a voting position on the NCESC and has been represented at every meeting for the past 15 years. At no point has any representative from Dominion Power or the Atlantic Coast Pipeline met with or corresponded with the NCESC.”

Dominion says they are meeting with local safety groups – but those groups don’t exist. Can we believe their safety plan exists?

Was Aaron Ruby Asleep?

Writing in the May 2, 2017, Farmville Herald, Joseph Jeeva Abbate says, “Evidently Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby must have fallen asleep during the testimony of the residents of Union Hill and the members of Union Hill Baptist Church when they expressed their concern on having Dominion’s proposed massive gas compressor station placed on land directly next to their properties and adjacent to two churches.” He notes that some residents are just 50 feet from the compressor station and most are within the probable impact radius of fire or explosion, but, using eminent domain, the ACP will force placement of pipeline and compressor station on “more than 300 property owners who object to having their lives, land, property, livestock, water and air violated by an unnecessary pipeline that could leak, pollute and explode.”

In all their PR, however, Dominion spokespeople talk about taking great care at every step of the certification process to meet the highest standards of safety and health, and tout the way they have listened to and worked closely with property owners. Has Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby been asleep? Or is Dominion is deliberately ignoring the concerns, health, and safety of property owners?

In Case of Emergency….

Describing how Dominion would work with local law enforcement and emergency responders to evacuate people if an ACP “pipeline incident” should occur is only one of the 111 requests FERC has made to Dominion for more specific information and clarification. Many of FERC’s requests for information were items flagged in comments filed about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

Consider the plight of parents of the 430 students in an elementary school that is only 650 feet from the Mariner East 2 pipeline currently under construction in Pennsylvania. They were barred from a meeting between district and township leaders, first responders, and officials from Sunoco Logistics to discuss emergency evacuation plans in the event of a catastrophic explosion or leak.

No Significant Concerns?

In 2005, state and federal regulators dismissed warnings from environmental groups and local officials about the risk of catastrophic flooding below a major Northern California dam. Instead, the regulators at the time said they were confident that the hillside at the Oroville Dam that helps hold back hundreds of billions of gallons of water was stable and did not need to be reinforced with concrete. FERC, the agency that oversees the dam’s re-licensing and received the request for armoring, agreed that paving was not needed. State water resources department officials wrote in a final environmental impact report dated June 2008 that no “significant concerns” about the hillside’s stability had been raised in any government or independent review.

In FERC’s DEIS for the ACP, they also say they see no significant concerns. Hmmmm….

Read a February 14, 2017, article about the current problems with the Oroville Dam resulting from the superficial analysis that FERC habitually conducts of projects for which it has responsibility.

The Perils of Rushed Construction

Because the proposed construction schedule for the ACP has been significantly delayed (at least a year behind at this point), Dominion expects to accelerate the construction process when it does begin; some of the construction work, e.g. timbering, will be conducted at totally inappropriate times (see our earlier post). A recent article discusses dangerous flaws in the construction of Spectra’s pipeline expansion project, the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline – part of the same pipeline system that exploded in Salem Township PA in April 2016.

Two former inspectors on the AIM project have described in detail a variety of serious problems during construction that put workers at risk and have long-term dangerous consequences for the pipeline itself and the communities along its route. Among the problems revealed: burying pipes before the weld inspection results can be viewed (normally companies wait until x-ray films are developed and inspected before burying welded pipes), burying pipeline sections with faulty coating, and improper hydrostatic testing. It costs time and money to dig up buried pipe and inspect (or reinspect) it properly, something companies simply don’t want to do.

Pipeline leaks not only pose the risk of catastrophic explosions, they also carry climate changing consequences because of the methane released. Between 2010 and 2015, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, 12.8 billion cubic feet of methane leaked from the nation’s natural gas gathering and transmission lines in nearly 700 incidents, incidents which killed 70 people and injured 300. But since companies can simply pass the cost of leaked gas on to consumers, there is little incentive to proactively hunt for leaks once potentially faulty gas lines are buried.

Worker safety is another thing that is compromised when construction is pushed. “In the rush to build out pipelines nationwide over the last several years, the pipeline accident rate has skyrocketed, according to watchdog groups. Gas pipelines built between 2000 and 2010 had an accident rate of 1.289 per 10,000 miles; pipes laid since then have a rate of 6.64 per 10,000 miles, according to the Pipeline Safety Trust.”

Read the full DeSmog article here.

“Rapid Corrosion” Led to April 2016 Explosion

The Pittsburgh Tribune reports that Spectra Energy officials spoke on September 13, 2016, about the April 2016 natural gas pipeline explosion in Salem Township PA that sent a fireball hundreds of feet into the air, scorched about 40 acres of farmland and severely burned a man living nearby whose home was destroyed. The pipeline that exploded had lost about 30 percent of its steel wall to corrosion four years earlier, Spectra Energy officials said Tuesday. But officials said what was then considered a minor anomaly – a small area flagged for reinspection five years later – corroded at an unprecedented rate that caused the explosion and spurred the company to re-evaluate longstanding industry standards. Spectra officials said they have shortened the length of time between inspections of similar transmission lines from every five years to every three to four years. They will lower the threshold for flagging anomalies for action and will add an additional measurement to the industry standard, officials said. Although Federal officials have yet to issue a determination on the cause of the blast, Spectra officials said they believe a combination of issues affecting weld joints on 40-foot sections of pipe caused the rupture of the line.

“Based on research and engineering practice, we would expect to see corrosion of 2 to 3 percent a year in the worst case. What we saw was upwards of 10-15 percent a year, or about five times what conservative engineering estimates would be based on. It is truly an outlier – not just for Spectra, for the industry,” a Spectra official said.

Factors unique to the explosion site included this: “The gas is a little warmer there, given that it is closer to the compression station.” [Small comfort to our friends in Buckingham County!]

One resident at the town hall meeting with Spectra officials said the explanation sounded plausible, “But in my experience, most if not all of the time, we are not told the truth or the whole truth.” We understand her feeling!

Read the full article here.