July 1, 2016
Carlana Rhoten

On April 29th, our own Westmoreland County experienced a gas pipeline explosion. Given the massive destruction experienced across our nation and the world, it was relatively minor. What it DID do was to lift the cover off the potential risks that we live with, unknowingly, every day.

In Salem Twp, James Baker’s house was destroyed and he was sent to the hospital with severe burns. The force of the explosion was seen and felt almost a mile away. A section of Rt. 819 melted and closed for a month. The wildfire was extensive, and came within 200 yards of a well owned by Dominion Transmission. Dominion shut that well down as a precaution; however, it is notable that they own the  Oakford Storage Complex, with more than 100 injection and monitoring wells.

The Delmont Compressor Station,  a large complex of storage tanks and  pipes that process natural gas, is less than two miles from the explosion.  It consists of a storage field that spans 39 square miles, located underneath many pipelines. (This is the largest storage area in the United States.)

Spectra Energy, a Houston based parent company of Texas Eastern, said that there are four pipelines in the vicinity . The pipe that burst was laid in 1981 and last inspected in 2012, when no problems were found.  Spectra owns 2,000 miles of pipelines in Pennsylvania and this admission reveals that the current standard of inspections cannot be trusted to discover cracks, leaks and conditions capable of causing explosions and fires.

A recent Wall Street Journal review found that between 2010-2013 in the U.S., there were 1,400 pipeline accidents and four of every five problems were NOT discovered by the companies that own them.

Wikipedia reports that from 1994 through 2013, gas transmission systems were responsible for 363 fatalities, 1,392  injuries and $823,970,000 in property damage.

A new and even more dangerous development involves the granting of permits to increase the pressure inside pipelines transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) gives out permits to fossil fuel companies like  jelly beans, even though it has little power or resources to regulate, inspect or enforce rules.

Most Republican lawmakers vote against any regulations, and  cut  budgets to prevent hiring enough qualified inspectors to protect the safety of citizens, and their air, water and property.

On May 11th, Salem Township citizens attended a Town Hall meeting called by their municipal officials to hear from Spectra Energy. Given the seriousness of this event, it is shocking to report that federal and state elected and appointed officials were nowhere to be seen. U.S. Senators/Representatives, Department of Energy, FERC, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Human Services,  Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Transportation, Governor Wolf’s Department of Environmental Protection, Department for Conservation of Natural Resources, Department of Public Health, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard, Senators/Representatives of our PA General Assembly, et al were AWOL.
            (New York citizens, led by  BXE  www.beyondextremeenergy.org. are currently protesting Spectra Energy’s determined effort to lay pipelines near the Indian Point Nuclear plant and through areas that threaten water sources.  See DemocracyNow.org for a Spectra Energy program.)

On May 19th PA citizens rallied to express their concerns and to join a national  protest  led by Americans Against Fracking (and Pipelines). The goal is to influence the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, and many environmental organizations will join together at 1 PM on Sunday, July 24th  for a MARCH FOR CLEAN ENERGY.  (Some activists will arrive on Saturday, July 23.)

For more information:

www.cleanenergymarch.org
www.paagainstfracking.org

 

The May 19th “ NO MORE PIPELINES “ rally can be viewed on TV in Pittsburgh every Monday at 9 PM during the month of July .  Comcast Channel 21 and Verizon Fios Channel 47.

It can be viewed anytime on the internet. Rich Fishkin, videographer, has it on YouTube.

www.youtube.com/richfishpgh. Look for “Killer Pipelines in PA.”


Carlana Rhoten is a community producer at PCTV21, Progressive Pgh Notebook TV Series, a project of the Thomas Merton Center.   412-363-7472 or email  tvnotebook@gmail.com