Pipelines Subject to Minimal Regulation in WV

by Duane Nichols on April 27, 2015

Pipeline survey approved in part of national forest in West Virginia

From the Associated Press, April 24, 2014

Charleston, WV — The U.S. Forest Service has approved a permit to survey part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for a proposed natural gas pipeline.

The temporary permit for the survey involves 17 miles of forest through Randolph and Pocahontas counties. The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1DES8Ez) reports the yearlong survey will include studies of plants and animals, wetlands, water, soil and cultural resources.

Dominion Resources Inc. and its partners in the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline are proposing to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Southeast. The pipeline would run from West Virginia to North Carolina, with much of its path through Virginia.

The Governors of West Virginia and Virginia support the pipeline. Opponents say the pipeline will hurt the environment and property values.


Effects Of Local WV Pipeline Ruptures Still Linger

From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, April 26, 2015

Glen Dale, WV — Inspectors found benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene in an unnamed Marshall County stream four days after the April 9th Williams Energy pipeline ruptures, WV-DEP spokeswoman Kelley J. Gillenwater said.

Gillenwater said officials with her agency and Williams continue working to mitigate the impact of 132 barrels of Marcellus Shale condensate flowing into Little Grave Creek when a 4-inch pipeline broke near Glen Dale April 9. She said tests taken in a nameless stream April 13 showed the presence of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. However, Gillenwater emphasized officials found none of these materials in Little Grave Creek.

“Drinking water well samples have been forwarded on to the local health department for its records,” Gillenwater said Friday. “Williams has the contamination area contained to an unnamed tributary of Wilson Run.” Marshall County Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Mucheck said Wilson Run is a tributary of Little Grave Creek.

As of Friday, Gillenwater said Williams officials located the fractured section of pipeline. She said the company is removing contaminated soil in the area of the condensate leak before taking it to a proper disposal center in Ohio. “Odors from the site are likely to migrate downstream as the removal proceeds. Williams mailed a letter to residents notifying them they may experience an odor in the coming days while they are working on remediation,” she said.

Gillenwater said DEP officials are also evaluating whether the spill impacted any aquatic life.

Just three hours after the condensate pipeline broke April 9, a 12-inch Williams line ruptured in the Bane Lane area of the county along U.S. 250. Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said company officials believe “heavy rains in the area, which may have destabilized soils, were a contributing factor” in the two pipeline ruptures.

Williams operates a massive pipeline and processing infrastructure network in Marshall County, as the firm runs the Oak Grove processing plant, the Fort Beeler processing plant and the Moundsville fractionator, all of which are connected by pipelines.


State of West Virginia Lacks Oversight of Pipelines

From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, April 26, 2015

Wheeling, WV — West Virginia regulators do not inspect the vast majority of pipelines transporting natural gas and oil throughout the state, such as the two Williams Energy conduits that ruptured in Marshall County earlier this month, spilling oil and condensate into streams.

“We don’t have the opportunity to increase oversight over anything that we regulate. We regulate what the state and federal government require of us,” said Susan Small, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which is responsible for pipelines that do not cross state boundaries. “We have five inspectors for the whole state.”

Officials with both Williams Energy and the state DEP continue evaluating the effects of the April 9 breaks, one of which caused 132 barrels of natural gas condensate – a substance similar to crude oil – to spill into Little Grave Creek. DEP spokeswoman Kelley J. Gillenwater said the agency will cite Williams for “conditions not allowable in state waters,” adding that other violations discovered in the investigation could result in additional penalties.

Photo: Pipeline operators use a robotic device to inspect the integrity of this infrastructure, but West Virginia regulators cannot compel companies to do this.

“Williams purchased the two lines, but takes full responsibility for their safe operation,” Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said of the 4-inch and 12-inch lines. She said the company is fixing the leak in the 4-inch line, hoping to complete the repairs by May 8.

Gillenwater said the WV-DEP is only involved in the matter because the condensate spilled into a stream. The DEP has worked to increase oversight by requiring builders of new pipelines to obtain stormwater construction permits from the state Division of Water and Waste Management.

“This new permit requirement was put in place by the agency in June 2013 to better protect West Virginia streams from soil runoff and other issues that can occur when sediment controls aren’t properly implemented,” Gillenwater said. “The agency has no jurisdiction, however, to regulate the pipelines themselves – meaning the DEP can’t require integrity testing of the lines,” she added.

Small said the vast majority of pipelines in West Virginia fall into what’s known as Class 1 pipelines, which means there are 10 or fewer occupied buildings within 220 yards on any side of the pipeline. This describes rural areas, home to nearly all pipelines. “If it is a Class 1 location, we don’t have any say over it,” she said.

Small emphasized this is the case for “gathering” pipelines, which generally connect natural gas wells to compressor stations and processing plants. Upon leaving the plant, the gas often enters a larger “transmission” pipeline,” over which state regulators have authority to enforce federal regulations.

“We don’t walk the line. We would inspect the company’s records to make sure they adhere to federal regulations,” she said of those rules established by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. For interstate pipelines – such as the the ATEX Express ethane pipeline that caused a huge fireball when it ruptured in Brooke County January 26 – PHMSA inspects problems with the line. The National Transportation Safety Board serves to oversee PHMSA’s findings.

Tim Greene, owner of Land and Mineral Management of Appalachia and a former West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection oil and gas inspector, has said previously the problem with oversight is a real one.

“It is not like inspectors are out there tagging these lines. Companies are just building them,” Greene said. “I seriously doubt that 10 years from now, anyone with the state will know where these pipelines are.”

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WV Public News (4/3/15) May 4, 2015 at 3:25 am


W.Va. Governor Announces $250K Grant for Pipeline

A Preston County natural gas pipeline project that’s expected to create 25 jobs is receiving a $250,000 state grant. On Thursday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin visited the Allegheny Wood Products site in Hazelton to announce the grant.

The money will help extend a natural gas pipeline to the company. It’s expected to help increase lumber production there by 50 percent, from 20 million board feet annually to 30 million board feet.

The additional 25 jobs would increase the plant’s employment by more than 50 percent by the fall. The gas line should be finished by September.

The extension will let the company replace diesel-powered kilns with natural gas-fueled ones.

The West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council grant will go to the Preston County Economic Development Authority.


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