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3 Days That Shook Washington County: Natural Gas Plant Explosion; Pipeline Leak Of 1.1 Million Cubic Feet Of Gas; 10,000 Gallon Spill At Compressor Station
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Is this what we should expect from the natural gas industrial infrastructure in Washington County and Pennsylvania?  Is this “just the way it is” when you have this industry in your backyard?

Here’s what happened on December 25, 26 and 27, 2022 in Washington County.

December 25 Christmas Morning Explosion

Kasey Duran and her family live about 1,500 feet from the Energy Transfer Revolution Cryogenic Natural Gas Processing Plant in Smith Township, Washington County.

Natural gas cryogenic plants take natural gas and cool it to sub-zero temperatures-- minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit-- in order to condense and separate out liquids like butane, ethane and propane from the gas.

These natural gas liquids are shipped via pipeline to places like the Shell Petrochemical Plant in Beaver County to make plastics and through the Mariner East Pipelines to Southeast Pennsylvania as feedstock for other petrochemical plants and export.

According to an article in the Observer-Reporter newspaper, Kasey said she and her family were opening presents on Christmas morning 2022 when they heard a “jet noise” from the plant followed by a loud bang that rattled the house about 7:30 in the morning.

“It blew and shook the whole house,” said Kasey Duran. “A big piece (of equipment) over there caught fire.  The kids are terrified. The whole family is scared. The peace is gone.”

Duran said she called 911 and she and her family evacuated their home.  By the time a “shelter-in-place” order was implemented, her family had already left for Burgettstown.

Duran said she also contacted the Department of Environmental Protection about the incident and was told they planned to send inspectors to tour the plant Tuesday (January 3).

Duran and her family returned to their home around noon and saw the fire continue to burn for several more hours.  Read more here.

A January 3 DEP inspection report shows Energy Transfer reported a nine and a half hour uncontrolled release of ethane and other gases from its Revolution Cryogenic Natural Gas Processing Plant.

The company reported ethane and other gases began to leak at about 7:20 a.m. on December 25 and ceased as of 4:59 p.m. the same day.

Energy Transfer has told neighbors to the facility since then information related to the explosion is confidential under Act 156 of 2006 the state Public Utility Confidential Security Information and Disclosure Protection Act and DEP should not be releasing copies of its inspection reports on the facility.

Clearly this is not the case.  Act 156 provides protection for confidential security information a “public utility” submits to an agency like DEP and declares it is confidential security information at the time of submission, not information declared after-the-fact as confidential or information the agency itself develops.

In fact, DEP’s technical guidance for implementing Act 156 says, “It does not apply to information that the Department already possesses or obtains from its own investigations or other sources."

DEP’s own inspection reports are clearly public records and subject to request under the state Right To Know Act.

Neighbors have received no updates on DEP’s investigation and it is ongoing.  Read more here.

Energy Transfer’s environmental compliance record in Pennsylvania is absolutely terrible.

Energy Transfer had its brand new Revolution Natural Gas Pipeline explode in Beaver County in 2018 and paid a penalty of $30.8 million to DEP.

It has been penalized over $24 million for violations related to the construction of the cross-state Mariner East Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline just by DEP.  The Public Utility Commission imposed its own penalties for violations under its laws.

Energy Transfer has pleaded “no contest” to criminal charges brought by Attorney General Shapiro related to the construction of the Mariner East Pipelines.  Read more here.

Recent PA Environment Digest articles about the struggles of Navy veterans Patrick & Helen Robinson in Indiana County [Read more here] and the Shawley Family in Cambria County [Read more here] illustrate the kind of on-the-ground impacts the Mariner East Pipelines construction has had.  Those problems have yet to be resolved.

December 26 - 10,000 Gallon Spill

The MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC operates two large natural gas compressor stations side-by-side off Quicksilver Road in Robinson Township, Washington County-- the Cibus Ranch Compressor Station and the Imperial Compressor Station.

In early May, MarkWest disclosed for the first time details about an estimated 10,000 gallon natural gas condensate spill that occurred on December 26, 2022 at the Imperial Compressor Station that not only contaminated the Station pad, but found its way off-site along Quicksilver Road.

MarkWest disclosed the spill because they are cleaning it up under the state’s Act 2 Land Recycling Program that requires formal notices of that fact to be published in the local newspaper, given to the municipality where the spill happened and in the PA Bulletin.

However, MarkWest sent the notice to the wrong municipality-- Robinson Township, Allegheny County, not Robinson Township, Washington County.

Click Here for a copy of the Notice of Intent.

The notice included a list of known contaminants from the spill in the soil and groundwater--  benzene, cumene, cyclohexane, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, toluene, 1,2,4, Trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5 Trimethylbenzen and xylene.

The company said the spill was the result of Winter Storm Elliot.  MarkWest said they would clean up the 10,000 gallon spill to the statewide health standard under the Act 2 Land Recycling Program.  Read more here.

David Ettore, MarkWest Environmental Compliance Officer, said at the June 12 Robinson Township Supervisors meeting contamination from a 10,000 gallon spill impacted two areas around the compressor station-- at the “slug catcher” on the Imperial Compressor Station pad and a second area where seepage of spill material found its way off the site along Quicksilver Road.

David Ettore told the Robinson Township Supervisors on June 12 he would return at their next meeting in July, after he was unable to answer questions the Supervisors had and questions from the public, according to Cathy Lodge, a township resident.

Robinson Township Supervisors are also looking at the issue of whether local permits are required for the earth disturbance that will occur during spill cleanup.

The 10,000 gallon spill is the largest known spill of natural gas condensates ever to occur in Pennsylvania.  Read more here.

December 27 - Pipeline Leak Of 1.1 Million Cubic Feet Of Gas

The CNX Oak Springs Natural Gas Pipeline Pigging Station was built in 2012 approximately 1,500 feet away from the Borello Family-- Jodi, her husband and three children-- in South Franklin Township, Washington County.

Pigging stations are used to send and retrieve “pigs”-- torpedo-shaped devices through natural gas pipelines in order to clean them out.  In this case, the Oak Springs Stations service  natural gas gathering lines running between multiple unconventional shale gas drilling pads close by.

This Station was plagued with malfunctions since it went into operation.

For nearly 10 years, the community and the Borello Family had to suffer through loud blowdowns releasing natural gas and liquid chemicals three times a day, seven days a week for nearly 10 years before Attorney General Shapiro brought criminal charges against CNX .

The blowdowns-- which sound like a jet engine turning on and off-- were documented in hundreds of videos and photos by the Borello Family.

Click Here for video/sound of a typical release from 2012 to 2019.

On December 3, 2021, CNX Resources pleaded “no contest” to criminal charges for misreporting air emissions from the Oak Springs Pigging Station as well as the number of times it conducted pigging operations.  Read more here.

The Borello Family thought their nightmare was over until approximately 10:14 a.m. on December 27 when a sound like a jet plane engine being turned on and off every few seconds began again.

The sound-- natural gas escaping from the pipeline pigging station-- continued until at least 11:55 a.m., as documented in video by the Borello Family.

Jodi called 911 and the DEP Regional Office Emergency Phone number.  Fire crews responded that day, but DEP did not send someone out to inspect the site until January 3.

CNX said a valve at the Oak Springs Pigging Station resulted in venting natural gas for a total of 29 minutes during two “events” from approximately 10:14 to 11:20 a.m.  CNX said the venting resulted in the release of approximately 564,702 cubic feet of natural gas.

Relying on the Borello Family’s video documentation of how long the release lasted, however, would double the estimated total release of natural gas to over 1.129 million cubic feet of natural gas and liquid chemicals.  Read more here.

Jodi last heard from DEP on May 4 when she contacted the DEP Air Quality inspector for the incident who said DEP’s investigation should be wrapping up soon.

While this uncontrolled release of natural gas was not as big as the estimated 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas released in November 2022 from the Equitrans Rager Mountain Underground Natural Gas Storage area in Cambria County-- one of the worst methane leaks globally in 2022--  it still is significant.  Read more here.

Natural Gas Pipelines - Underground Coal Mining Don’t Mix

Washington County not only has the most extensive natural gas industry infrastructure crisscrossing the countryside in the state, it is also one of the most heavily mined areas of the state, with active underground longwall coal mines in several areas.

And frequently, those industries collide.  Here’s a recent example.

On June 17, the Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the PA Bulletin inviting comments on a MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources, LLC project in Washington County to expose more than a mile of two natural gas pipelines to prevent damage from underground longwall coal mining.  (PA Bulletin, page 3228)

The project would expose 5,059 feet of the Greaves Pipeline and 1,350 feet of the Hunter Pipeline in Donegal Township, Washington County so the pipeline can be reinforced to protect it from the planned drop in surface ground levels that happens as longwall mining panels move through an area.

Picture a trench 1,000 feet wide and 15 to 20 feet deep continuously formed moving across the ground surface for 10,000 feet or more.  The width, depth and length can vary with each mine.

Comments are due by July 17.  Read more here.

Shouldn’t We Demand Better?

Only one of these three December “incidents” appeared in the local media-- the explosion and all-day explosion fire at the Energy Transfer Cryogenic Plant-- it was sort-of hard to miss, but not until days later.

DEP inspectors, in fact, didn’t inspect two of the facilities until days later-- the Energy Transfer explosion and the CNX pigging station natural gas leak.  It isn’t known yet when DEP inspected the MarkWest Imperial Compressor Station spill site.

There has been no announcement of any enforcement actions taken by DEP or the official cause of these “incidents” and what preventive measures have been put in place by the companies involved or DEP so things like this don’t happen again.

County emergency management and other officials have been silent.

And these are the events we know about since announcements of incidents like these when they happen are not routine.

It seems like these major incidents-- an explosion and fire, a 10,000 gallon spill and leak of 1.1 million cubic feet of natural gas-- all occurred in a vacuum from which no informed discussion escapes.

If you look at DEP’s Oil and Gas Compliance Database and Oil and Gas Inspection Reports Viewer like PA Environment Digest does each week, you will find continuing and widespread environmental violations by unconventional shale gas and conventional oil and gas operators all over the oil and gas fields of Pennsylvania.

These are the daily environmental insults and intrusions-- water well contaminations, spills, leaking wellheads from defective casing and cementing, spill containment structures with holes, drilling pads that haven’t been protected from erosion and sedimentation, noise, truck traffic, diesel fumes and dust and much more.

DEP is issuing notices of violation to the conventional industry at a rate that outpaces 2022-- 99 NOVs a week in 2022 (total of 5,052) and so far in 2023-- 134 a week-- total of 3,090 (as of June 9).

The same is true for the unconventional shale gas industry-- 22 NOVs a week in 2022 (total of 1,143) and so far in 2023-- 30 a week-- total of 709 (as of June 9).

With all this stuff going on, both in the unconventional and conventional oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania, why aren’t our public policy makers even taking notice and discussing these issues?

Shouldn’t we demand more of them and the industry?

(Written by David Hess, Former Secretary, PA Department of Environmental Protection.  Send comments to: PaEnviroDigest@gmail.com.)

(Photos: Energy Transfer Cryo Plant explosion; MarkWest compressor station sites; bottom- CNX Oak Springs Pigging Station; side- DEP map of unconventional shale gas well pads in Washington County each pad contains up to 12 or so wells.)

NewsClips:

-- Marcellus Drilling News: Punxsutawney Phil Getting A New Neighbor - Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well

-- TribLive: Grant Twp., Indiana County Community’s Fight To Stop An Oil & Gas Waste Injection Well

-- TribLive: Murrysville, Plum Officials Deal With Oil & Gas Waste Injection Well Issues In Allegheny County

-- WTAE: Washington County Homeowner Takes On Gas Drilling Companies In Court

-- KDKA: Washington County Family Takes 2 Gas Companies To Court Over Fracking Health Concerns

-- WTAE: 6 Leaking Abandoned Conventional Wells In Hanover Twp., Washington County Contaminated Water Supply, Releasing Natural Gas In And Next To Hillman State Park 

PA Oil & Gas Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - June 17 to 23 - Federal Well Plugging Project & Dimock Area Shale Gas Well Inspections; Leaking Plugged Conventional Wells; Frack Out Investigation  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - June 24  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posts 47 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In June 24 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

Related Articles - Unconventional Shale Gas Impacts:

-- DEP Ongoing Explosion/Fire Investigation: Energy Transfer Reported An Uncontrolled Release Of Ethane For 9.5 Hours From Its Revolution Natural Gas Processing Plant In Washington County   [PaEN]

-- Observer-Reporter: Explosion, Fire At Energy Transfer’s Revolution Natural Gas Cryogenic Plant Burned For Nearly 11 Hours On Christmas Day In Smith Twp., Washington County   [PaEN]

-- Robinson Twp., Washington County Seeks Answers To Cleanup Of MarkWest Liberty Midstream 10,000 Gallon Spill Of Natural Gas Condensates After Company Sends Notice To Wrong Municipality   [PaEN]

-- Natural Gas Pipeline Pigging Facility Malfunction Dec. 27 Released 1.1 Million Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas; Same Facility Plagued Community With Blowdowns 3 Times A Day, 7 Days A Week For Nearly 10 Years Until Criminal Charges Brought Against CNX  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Invites Comments On MarkWest Liberty Midstream Project To Expose 1 Mile+ Of 2 Natural Gas Pipelines To Prevent Longwall Coal Mining Damage In Washington County   [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: Counties, PEMA Need To Include A Complete Vulnerability Assessment Of All Natural Gas Facilities In State, County Hazard Mitigation Emergency Plans - By Cat (Cathy) Lodge, Washington County Resident  [PaEN]

-- Washington County Family Lawsuit Alleges Shale Gas Company Violated The Terms Of Their Lease By Endangering Their Health, Contaminating Their Water Supply And Not Protecting Their Land  [PaEN]

-- Oil & Gas Industry Impacts: Navy Veterans Patrick & Helen Robinson Relate Their 7-Year Struggle Dealing With Impacts Of Mariner East Pipeline Construction In Indiana County, And They Continue [PaEN]

-- Oil & Gas Industry Impacts: Cambria County Family Sues Sunoco After 3 Years Of Dealing With Damage To Home, Well, Septic System, Property From Mariner East Pipeline Construction  [PaEN]

-- Center For Coalfield Justice: Nearly 11 Months Since An EQT Shale Gas Well Frac-Out Left Residents Near New Freeport, Greene County Without Clean Water; DEP’s Investigation Not Complete [PaEN]

-- Ohio/PA Train Derailment, Pipeline Explosions, Uncontrolled Releases Put Spotlight On Public Health, Safety Threats Posed By Petrochemical, Natural Gas Industrial And Pipeline Infrastructure In PA  [PaEN]  

-- DEP Issued 754 Notices Of Violation For Defective Oil & Gas Well Casing, Cementing, The Fundamental Protection Needed To Prevent Gas Migration, Groundwater & Air Contamination, Explosions  [PaEN]

-- DEP: PA Fracking Operations Sent Nearly 236,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2021 - 811,070 since 2016   [PaEN]

-- DEP Finds PA General Energy Installed Its Shawnee Water Withdrawal On The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek At Sizes Larger Than Authorized By Its SRBC, DEP Permits  [PaEN]

-- Feature: 60 Years Of Fracking, 20 Years Of Shale Gas: Pennsylvania’s Oil & Gas Industrial Infrastructure Is Hiding In Plain Sight [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: Setback Distances And The Regulations We Need To Protect Public Health From Oil & Gas Facilities  [8.8.22]

Related Articles - Conventional Oil/Gas Impacts:

-- DEP Report Finds: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Routinely Abandon Wells; Fail To Report How Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Is Disposed; And Non-Compliance Is An ‘Acceptable Norm’  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [PaEN] 

-- Ohio Research Confirms Health, Environmental Hazards In Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Dumped On Roads, Just Like In PA  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Dispose Of Drill Cuttings By ‘Dusting’ - Blowing Them On The Ground, And In The Air Around Drill Sites  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owners Failed To File Annual Production/Waste Generation Reports For 61,655 Wells; Attorney General Continues Investigation Of Road Dumping Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- EDF: Pennsylvania Has 55,000 Oil/Gas Wells At High Risk Of Being Abandoned; 51,000 Wells At Risk Of Being Transferred To Low Solvency Owners; Current Conventional Well Owners Abandon 561 Wells A Year, On Average  [PaEN]

-- House Hearing: Let’s Work Together To Make Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Practices Cleaner, Respect Property Rights, Protect Taxpayers And Prevent New Abandoned Wells   [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: Conventional vs Unconventional Oil & Gas Wells - Not As Different As You Might Think - By Laurie Barr, Save Our Streams PA  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil/Gas Industry Bothered By DEP Records Showing They Receive NOVs For Abandoning An Average Of 561 Oil/Gas Wells A Year  [PaEN]

-- Inside Climate News: Abandoned Conventional Oil/Natural Gas Wells Emit Carcinogens, Other Harmful Pollutants In PA, Study Shows  [PaEN]

-- EDF: Conventional Gas Wells In Allegheny National Forest Leaked Over 6 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas In 2019; Conventional Operators Seek To Block Methane Limits  [PaEN]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [PaEN]

Related Articles - Gas Infrastructure:

-- PA Environment Digest: Oil & Gas Industrial Facility Impacts In Pennsylvania

Related Articles This Week:

-- 3 Days That Shook Washington County: Natural Gas Plant Explosion; Pipeline Leak Of 1.1 Million Cubic Feet Of Gas; 10,000 Gallon Spill At Compressor Station  [PaEN]

-- Senate Committee Meets June 26 To Consider Nomination Of Richard Negrin As DEP Secretary; Energy Information Office, Electric Billing Legislation  [PaEN]

-- House Republicans, Democrats Introduce Legislation To Prevent The Court System From Being Used By Powerful Interests To Silence Citizen Critics  [PaEN]

-- House Environmental Committee Holds June 27 Meeting On Bills Increasing Setback Distances From Natural Gas Infrastructure, 2-Year Moratorium On Cryptocurrency Air Permits  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves Water Withdrawal Projects, Including 12 Related To Shale Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 32 Shale Gas Well Pad Water Use Permits In Bradford, Clearfield, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Advises Water Withdrawal Permit Holders To Review Low Flow Water Restrictions And Begin Planning For Alternative Operations  [PaEN]

-- DEP Finds PA General Energy Installed Its Shawnee Water Withdrawal On The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek At Sizes Larger Than Authorized By Its SRBC, DEP Permits  [PaEN]

-- Senate Republicans Pass Bill To Significantly Narrow The Grounds For Appealing DEP Environmental Permit Actions  [PaEN]

-- Senate Environmental Committee Reports Out Bills Letting Polluters Decide When To Report Spills And CO2 Injection Well Primacy By Party-Line Votes  [PaEN]

-- DEP To Hold July 25 Hearing On Proposed Roulette Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well In Potter County  [PaEN]

-- EPA Issues Permit For Class IID Oil & Gas Waste Underground Injection Well In Jefferson County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posts Solicitation For Bids To Plug 23 Abandoned Conventional Oil & Gas Waste Injection Wells Owned By ARG Resources, Inc. And Pennzoil Company In Elk County    [PaEN]

-- PUC Distributes A Record $278.8 Million In Act 13 Shale Gas Drilling Impact Fee Revenue; Conventional Oil/Gas Operators Do Not Pay These Fees  [PaEN]

[Posted: June 20, 2023]


6/26/2023

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