Category Archives: Safety

Landslide Caused June Pipeline Explosion in WV

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on July 11, 2018, that “Columbia Gas Transmission has told federal pipeline regulators that a landslide was the apparent cause of the rupture and explosion of a new natural gas pipeline in Marshall County, W.Va., last month. The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, just south of Moundsville. …. Lindsey Fought, a spokesperson with TransCanada, said the company is continuing to cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation. She confirmed that the federal pipeline agency and TransCanada’s ‘internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”

According to the US Geological Survey Web page, “Land subsidence is a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth materials.”

TransCanada, owner of Columbia Gas Transmission, touted the pipeline, which just started operation in January 2018, as “best-in-class,” exactly what Dominion says the ACP will be.

Writing in Blue Virginia on July 11, 2018, Jon Sokolow reminds us of the stories in late May and early June about Precision Pipeline (builder for the MVP), which had more than 50 post-completion landslides along a 55-mile non-mountainous pipeline route in Wisconsin. That’s approximately one landslide per mile.

The Sokolow article continues, “The landslide risks at issue in the Dominion/Precision Pipeline lawsuit are terrifying because the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines are proposed to be built through some of the steepest terrain in Virginia, with slopes as steep as 78% in places. This mountainous terrain is particularly susceptible to landslides when fill material generated by construction is deposited on slopes after the pipelines are buried.”

How many miles of steep slopes are there on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route? How many on the Mountain Valley Pipeline route? How many potential landslides?  How many potential explosions?

What Caused Pipeline Explosion in WV?


A week after the massive pipeline explosion on rural Nixon Ridge in the Wheeling WV area, TransCanada is still investigating why exactly this brand new, 36-inch, “best-in-class” pipeline blew up. Drone footage from WTRF7 (by EM Media and Gold, Khourey and Turak) gives us a look at the area devastated by the explosion and resulting fire.

The explosion and fire, which incinerated approximately 10 acres of woods and obliterated everything in the immediate area of the explosion, were in an unpopulated area, but the planned routes for the larger 42-inch ACP and MVP pipelines run next to homes, churches, schools, and commercial buildings. The 2010 explosion of the 30-inch San Bruno CA pipeline, and the resulting fire, killed 8 people, injured dozens, and destroyed 50 homes.

TransCanada’s new pipeline, in operation less than 6 months, was supposed to be “best-in-class.” Dominion plans to use what they call “best-in-class” techniques in building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through our properties. We are not reassured!

Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes near Wheeling, WV

Early in the morning on June 7, 2018, a massive explosion in a new natural gas pipeline just south of Wheeling WV sent huge fireballs into the sky that could be seen miles away. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article reported that no one was injured in the blast, which occurred in a rural location. The line that ruptured was a brand new, 36-inch diameter pipe with operating pressure of 1,440 PSI, just put in service in January 2018. TransCanada, owner of the pipeline, had a crew on the scene, but said in a statement that the cause of the explosion is unknown.

According to the article, “In announcing its start in January, TransCanada’s President and CEO Russ Girling said: ‘This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable, and efficient operation on behalf of our customers.'”

Is it reassuring to know that Dominion boasts that the ACP, a 42-inch diameter pipe with operating pressure of 1,440 PSI, will also be a truly best-in-class pipeline? No, it’s not reassuring in the least!

Pipe Storage: Write to PHMSA

Bill Limpert in Bath County has written to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the US Department of Transportation agency responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of the nation’s pipeline infrastructure. With his permission, we are sharing his letter.  He urges others to write their own letters to PHMSA about the long term storage issues with pipes, and the many reasons we know pipe cannot be stockpiled or stored long-term without grave consequences.

Send letters to:
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
820 Bear Tavern Road
West Trenton, NJ 08628
Attn: Robert Burrough, Acting Director, Eastern Region

Here is Bill Limpert’s excellent letter:

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
820 Bear Tavern Road
West Trenton, NJ 08628
Attn: Robert Burrough
Acting Director, Eastern Region
Re: Atlantic Coast Pipeline Pipe Safety
April 17, 2018

Dear Mr. Burrough:

I am writing to you to request a PHMSA investigation into unsafe storage practices, and other safety concerns regarding the pipes that are proposed for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

I am concerned about the protective corrosion prevention coating on the pipes being damaged by exposure to sunlight, or by other means, including vandalism, or contact with other stored pipes. I am also concerned about the use of cheap foreign steel in these pipes.

Dura Bond advises that the pipes for the ACP were produced from late 2015 through March, 2017. So all of the pipes are over a year old, and some are over two years old. The ACP is already a year behind schedule, and has not received all necessary permits to begin construction. Even under the revised schedule, some of these pipes will not be placed into the ground until late 2019, and that optimistic time frame remains uncertain.

I have been advised that Dura-Bond, the manufacturer of the pipes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, states that the pipes should not be left in sunlight for more than 9
months, and we are already well past that time frame.

Pipes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were found to be stored outside, in direct sunlight, and subject to other adverse weather conditions in Charlottesville Virginia as early as July of 2016. These pipes were also in an unsecured location where vandals or others could access and damage them.

I have seen images of a very large pipe storage location in an open field near Beckley, West Virginia, near the intersection of Routes 19 and I-77. These images can be found on the cover and first page of the April/May 2018 edition of The Appalachian Voice. These images show very large pipes stacked 4 high, and likely in direct contact with pipes above, below, and on either side. I am concerned that this apparent direct contact with other very heavy pipes will damage the exterior corrosion protection.

I am also concerned about foreign steel in the ACP pipes, and I recall that PHMSA was forced to require replacement of foreign steel pipes some years ago due to inferior and unsafe steel.

Joseph Klesin of your office kindly visited us on October 31, 2017, and we enjoyed spending time with him. I discussed my concerns with pipes stored in the open at that time. Mr. Klesin advised that pipes stored in the open for one year would probably lose 1 or 2 millimeters of external corrosion protection due to exposure to sunlight. He advised that this was within the acceptable safety range of corrosion protection loss. He further advised that leaving pipes exposed to sunlight for two years would constitute an unacceptable safety risk.

During that visit Mr. Klesin also advised that pipeline companies are not required to backfill the pipeline trench with soil, as is shown on the typical drawings in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He stated that the trench could be backfilled with crushed rock. This conversation was prompted by my pointing out that there is very little soil on the proposed 3,000 foot long path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on steep and narrow Miracle Ridge on my property. I believe that crushed rock could damage the pipe’s external corrosion protection in any location, and particularly under the pressure of 25 feet of rock overburden in a trench on an extremely steep slope of up to 58% as would be required to place the pipeline through our property. Similar extreme conditions exist elsewhere in Western Virginia and West Virginia.

Please investigate and advise me of the following:

– Where are the pipes for the ACP being stored, and are they exposed to sunlight?
– Are the pipes in contact with one another?- How long have the pipes been stored? Please advise the various ages of pipe by percentage and type of pipe.
– Does Dura Bond recommend that the pipes be put into service within 9 months of manufacture, or other recommendations for storage prior to being put into service?
– What type of corrosion protection is used on the pipe? Please specify manufacturer and name of product. If the type of corrosion protection varies, please advise how it varies per the type of pipe and the location where the pipe will be placed.
– What is the maximum operating temperature of the pipe at 1.5 bcf/d, 2.0 bcf/d, and 2.25 bcf/d?
– Has any consideration been given to increased pipe temperatures due to heated groundwater in some karst areas? There is a large active hot spring near our home.
– What pipe is made of foreign steel, what is the country or countries of origin, and where will that pipe be located?

These issues are very important to my wife and I, our neighbors, and many others in the zone of incineration, the evacuation zone, and otherwise on, or near the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The extreme terrain in our area, and other areas of Western Virginia and West Virginia makes pipeline safety even more important. The pipeline would be placed on our property and in Little Valley on extreme slopes with recent landslides within several hundred feet of the route, narrow ridges, karst terrain with sinkholes, and under Little Valley Run, which recently flooded, and deposited many large boulders that relocated the channel within 200 feet of the proposed crossing. Just two days ago another large flood resulted in out of bank flow on many of the proposed stream crossings in our area. As we have previously advised, my wife and I, and a number of our neighbors are located in the zone of incineration for the pipeline, and we would be trapped in the evacuation zone at the head of the valley if we initially survived a pipeline incident, with no chance of rescue.

Additionally, the reduced pipeline safety regulations, remoteness, and fewer emergency response resources for rural areas like ours leave us at greater risk that those in more populated areas.

In my opinion, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been less than professional and forthright in their response to the many responsibilities they have in preparing to undertake this dangerous project. In case after case, they have failed to provide needed information and analysis to regulatory agencies. They have repeatedly cut corners to their benefit, and at public expense. I am concerned that they are doing the same regarding pipeline safety.

Please note that I am still attempting to have Dominion conduct a geohazard survey on our property, and I will be sending yet another letter to Dominion to try to accomplish that. Should Dominion finally make that inspection, I will advise you and Mr. Klesin. Mr. Klesin previously advised that he would like to participate in that inspection, and I would like him, or another PHMSA representative to be there if at all possible.

Thank you again for your assistance, and your public service.

Volunteers, Citizens Deserve Information

In an April 4, 2018, editorial, The Recorder reminds us of something we all know already: “Openness and transparency are not Dominion Energy’s strong suits, as we’ve learned over the last four years. It just doesn’t seem to share well with others.” The editorial discusses The Recorder‘s efforts to have a reporter attend a Bath County meeting to discuss the how-to details of responding to emergencies related to Dominion’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction and operation.  Dominion first closed the March 20, 2018, meeting to the public, then (after the finally agreeing a reporter could attend) cancelling the meeting, then hurriedly rescheduling a hush-hush meeting in a venue over which Dominion had control of attendees and thus could deny attendance by press and public.

The Recorder says, “To their credit, both Dominion and EMS representatives offered to give us the meeting details later, which they did, but it’s much harder to report the facts and discussion when a reporter is not there to hear context and perspective.

“Emergency rescue and fire volunteers have said dozens of times that understanding the essential plans for handling any emergency during and after pipeline construction was critical to their knowledge base.

“What personnel will Dominion have on hand while construction takes place? What are their skills and certifications? What kind of personnel does Bath County need to augment its own volunteer base? Who responds first? Do our rescue squads, first responders, deputies, and firefighters have the right kind of equipment to handle sudden illness, fire, or accidents in the rough mountain terrain where this pipeline is planned? If there is extra or specialized training needed, will Bath County be able to secure that before construction starts?

“Some of these questions were answered last week; some were not.

“There are dozens of important questions, and neighboring residents want to know these things, too. Everyone needs assurance our county is prepared for the kinds of emergencies that have not arisen here before.

“Bath County citizens, and especially emergency volunteers, deserve answers. We are encouraged that last week’s meeting provided some answers and put a few minds at ease.

“But we are endlessly discouraged that Dominion makes getting answers so difficult for the general public.

“It’s not like these are state secrets, folks. Open up.”

Natural Gas Is Bad for Virginia

In a Letter to the Editor of the Roanoke Times, Jennifer Sims summarizes the “ruinous public policy described in the Jan. 26 commentary ‘Expanding access to natural gas is smart public policy.'” She points out that:

  • Instead of carbon, liquid natural gas (LNG) emits methane, a dangerous heat-producing greenhouse gas, and that the MVP and ACP “would produce the equivalent of 20+ coal plants in terms of greenhouse gases.”
  • The fracked natural gas in the MVP and ACP will NOT be available to anyone in the 20 counties through which the pipelines pass, but is destined for existing and new export contracts.
  • The fracked natural gas is NOT “safe, clean, reliable, affordable and abundant,” as the January 26 opinion piece claimed. Distribution pipelines have about 150 incidents or accidents each year; “ratepayers will be forced to foot the construction bill, business and landowners along both paths will have their private property seized and devalued and we will see a significant loss in tourism revenue.”

She concludes, “it is not a good public policy to introduce 1,000 miles of sediment dumps and herbicides into waterways, miles of mountaintop removal, abuse of eminent domain, loss of tourism revenue and pollution-emitting compressor stations into our Commonwealth.”