reports, 9/13/09

RIO GRANDE CITY – The sky in Rio Grande City was lit up Saturday night by a huge fireball. It was the result of a natural gas pipeline explosion.

. . . . .

Firefighters say it was a challenging blaze for them because they couldn’t get to it to tackle it. Fire crews waited for the gas company to turn off the gas to that location first and waited for the fire to subside a bit before battling it. The fire burned for at least two hours and then dwindled on its own.

Fire crews are meeting with the pipeline company tomorrow morning to find out what caused the explosion. They say one possibility is that the lines could be old. The lines will stay turned off for now.

Complete story at:

Tags: , , in Texas, 11/26/08:

Dangers of Gas Pipelines Under Neighborhoods

Reported by: Will Ripley

MCALLEN – NEWSCHANNEL 5 uncovered the potential danger caused by natural gas pipelines under Valley neighborhoods.

Six weeks ago, a natural gas pipeline exploded in McCook. The ball of fire was 400 feet high and over 1,500 degrees. The flames melted everything around them, including the asphalt on the road.

NEWSCHANNEL 5 spent the past six weeks traveling across Texas, digging up documents, and tracing a trail of pipelines. We found the pipelines weaving under your neighborhoods, your homes, and your schools.

We also learned natural gas is being blamed for a series of house explosions in north Texas.

“We have a very volatile situation,” says Jay Marcom. The north Texas farmer was in Austin, testifying to the Railroad Commission about the danger of natural gas pipelines. He says worn-out pipelines are leaking natural gas, polluting his land, and putting lives at risk.

“They’re just sitting out there waiting and rusting, waiting to explode,” Marcom says.

He agreed to come to the Valley with special equipment used to detect natural gas leaks. It didn’t take long before we found one. It was less than three miles from the McCook explosion site.

“You can smell the natural gas in this area,” commented Marcom.

NEWSCHANNEL 5 learned there are literally hundreds of miles of natural gas pipelines, running under thousands of Hidalgo County homes. This includes houses in McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, and Pharr. In fact, Hidalgo County has more pipelines than all the other Valley counties put together.

Railroad Commission documents show some of these lines are over five decades old. Back then, the pipelines were surrounded by empty fields.

Now, new homes and businesses are going up in the area. We’re told the land is too valuable not to develop.

“You’re moving out into the oil field and you’re exposing yourself to danger when you do that,” says Marcom.

City and pipeline operators work together to keep you as safe as possible. Companies try to keep a 50-foot buffer zone around the lines. But NEWSCHANNEL 5 found out that doesn’t always happen.

We saw one pipeline running directly underneath homes. Another pipeline runs right under McAllen Memorial High School.

Gas companies insist it is safe to build over pipelines, as long as the public knows they’re there.

. . . . .

NEWSCHANNEL 5 spent two days searching for pipelines. Most of the sites looked well maintained. All of them were fenced off, keeping us and our testing equipment out.

We tried talking to the HESCO Gathering Company, which owns the pipeline that blew up in McCook. They also own gas lines that run right under Valley neighborhoods. They turned us down for an on-camera interview.

But they did agree to answer some of our questions by phone and email.

HESCO says they’re still waiting on lab reports to confirm the official cause of the McCook explosion. But they tell NEWSCHANNEL 5 it was likely a “corrosion issue.”

We asked if HESCO’s other gas lines are corroding too. They responded, “We do significant testing on our pipelines.”

But they couldn’t give us an exact date. They did say, “We are constantly inspecting and treating our pipelines.”

More than a dozen companies operate natural gas lines in the Valley. Only one company, Shell, agreed to an interview. They have three full time inspectors in the Valley. They check 600 miles of pipelines, preventing problems before they happen.

Shell spokesperson James Blanton says, “The safety of the public and the environment is of the utmost importance to us.”

We asked him if the accident in McCook could happen in McAllen.

“Yes, hypothetically, yeah it could happen,” says Blanton, “But I’m very confident it will not be a Shell line.”

The Texas Railroad Commission also has four inspectors covering more than a thousand miles of pipelines in the Valley. Their job is to make sure those pipelines are well-maintained.

But even the state admits whenever you mix pipelines and people problems are bound to happen. According to the Railroad Commission, 200 such accidents happen a week in Texas. That’s more than 28 accidents a day.

Most accidents happen when construction workers dig and hit a gas line.

Ramona Nye of the Texas Railroad Commission explains, “This is the number one cause of accidents in the state. We are working hard to reduce those accidents.”

The Railroad Commission will soon begin fining people who dig into pipelines, without calling to find out where they are.

But Marcom says with so many gas lines in such a populated area, it’s only a matter of time before the next big accident.

“You’ve got the same ticking time bomb out in the country, in McAllen, in the Valley, with these unregulated gas gathering lines that are just waiting to explode,” he says.

We should point out the local government makes millions of dollars in tax revenue from these gas gathering lines.

The official report on the McCook explosion is due out in two weeks. As soon as we get that information from the company that owns the line, we’ll share it with you.

If you’re buying a home, it’s up to you to look around and see if there are any gas pipelines in the area. If you live near a natural gas line, the Texas Railroad Commission says you should always call before you dig. You can dial 811 or call 800-545-6005.

If you see or smell gas, get away from the area immediately and don’t use your cell phone because it could spark an explosion. Once you’re in a safe area, call police to report a possible gas leak.

Complete story at:

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The Bradford Era reports:

Thursday, September 3, 2009 4:05 AM EDT

DEP gets tough questions Wednesday night

By ADAM VOSLER, Era Reporter

Hedgehog Lane residents made it clear to Department of Environmental Protection officials Wednesday that their water and quality-of-life problems due to recent oil drilling are far from solved.

About 20 residents and Bradford Township Supervisors Chairman Don Cummins gathered at the Lions Club community building to ask tough questions of four DEP representatives who made the trip to provide an update on the issues and answer concerns. State Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, also attended the meeting, the second of its kind in recent weeks.

“I’m sure this has dragged on longer than you would’ve liked it to,” Regional Director Kelly Burch said of the problems, for which DEP issued violation notices to Schreiner Oil and Gas for four overpressured oil wells and contamination to seven water wells.

“Gas migration cases are very difficult.”

Schreiner drilled nearly two dozen wells last fall. Since then, residents have complained of everything from poor water quality to odor, noise, oil lease access road runoff onto Hedgehog, and other issues.

“We think most of the problems are corrected,” Burch said.

Several residents took exception to that claim. Many of them said their water still has foul odor and abnormal taste, while DEP countered that the water passes the agency’s 18 parameters for safe drinking.

“The source of the gas has been abated,” said Craig Lobins, regional manager of DEP’s Oil & Gas Management Program.

The other top complaint of residents has been a stripper plant located off Hedgehog Lane. []

The plant strips unwanted gas out of the gas product that is coming out of wells. The structures, residents say, are a hazard because of its propane tanks that were placed only a few hundred feet from homes; also, the compressor station is noisy and produces an odor.

So the residents were likely not happy to hear that DEP granted New Century Pipeline a permit for the plant a few weeks ago — months after the structure was already built without permission.

That company, which is under Schreiner partner Aiello Bros. Oil & Gas, is facing a yet-unscheduled Bradford Township Zoning Board hearing on grounds that it never filed for a zoning permit. The matter could end up in McKean County Court if the company appeals the zoning officer’s findings.

“We are obliged by law to issue the permit if they meet our standards,” said DEP Air Quality Coordinator John Guth.

Cummins complained that the permit shouldn’t have been issued if the plant was in violation of township zoning laws. New Century has also faced DEP fines because it never informed the agency of its building plans, either.

“They have been noncompliant since the day they started operating,” Burch acknowledged.

Hedgehog natives wondered aloud why their neighborhood has been slow to receive help and why repeated offenses by Schreiner have been tolerated.

“When people are acting like this over and over and over, that’s where my frustration lies,” one Hedgehog resident said.

“Why is it up to us to try and stop somebody else who’s obviously breaking the rules?” asked another resident.

Schreiner’s permits for the several remaining wells to be fractured are valid until spring. DEP would not deny him that right, but Lobins said the wells are nearly worthless at this point because they’ve been open for so long.

“I don’t know if (Schreiner’s) going to drill any more of those,” Lobins said.

DEP had ordered Schreiner to stop further oil and gas drilling on Hedgehog until the water supplies were “restored or replaced,” which they have done by supplying bottled water and redrilling water wells. Of course, that matters little to the residents who say their water is still coming up bad.

. . . . .

Overall, it’s clear the residents are tiring of the water situation and what they believe is DEP’s negligence of obvious problems with its drinkability.

“I’ve lived there 21 years, and my water in the last year, it’s gone to crap,” said a man who identified himself as a resident of 177 Hedgehog Lane. Several residents cited the water as tasting “musty” and “old.”

A few visitors even questioned DEP reports they found online, saying the reports twisted what agents and residents said about their water’s poor odor and taste during recent visits.

Burch was swift in defending his staff.

“Many of my employees have a private well just like many of you … I know they wouldn’t tolerate it.”

After nearly two hours of back-and-forth between Cummins’ constituents and DEP officials, the supervisor boiled it down to one simple question.

“How do we get their water back to the way it was?” Cummins asked Burch.

As of today, the DEP does not seem to have an answer.

Full story at

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“I live on Hedgehog Lane in Bradford, PA where oil and gas drilling has contaminated many water wells.  The DEP recognizes seven, but there are more of us.”


“We also have a stripper plant in our residentially-zoned neighborhood that has us furious.  It consists of a 19,000 gallon propane tank less than 300 feet from our house, a compressor and generator that run 24/7 – the noise is simply unbearable – and pipes that seem to leak propane so that we smell it all of the time.  Propane trucks the size of semi’s routinely come to the pipes to fill up with propane.  We just don’t understand how this all fits into zoning laws, and we are frustrated with how it has changed our neighborhood and property values. ”




Glycol leak 1


Glycol leak 2


Methanol leak

Click here>> Video: methanol leak


Oil leak


Oil leak


Oil leak


Oil staining of soil


15w40 drum and leak

“Our water smells and tastes weird enough that we don’t drink it, and we don’t even give it to our animals.  It smells musty- like dirt.  It reminds me of an organic that I used to work with when I was a chemist.  DEP officials have agreed that they smell and taste it, but that the standard test they run for about 15 or so substances come back normal.  We have asked DEP repeatedly to test for VOCs, but they refuse.  They say that the test is tricky because a neighbor spilling oil or gas could be the cause.  I told him, I agree – a neighbor IS spilling oil – Aiello Brothers Oil and Gas – drillers for Schreiner  (  … and I have the pictures to prove it.  They still refused to test for VOCs.  They said that it isn’t standard operating procedure to do so.  When I responded that my neighborhood isn’t going through a “standard” situation, they replied that we actually are. When I asked for clarification, I was told that this sort of thing happens every month.  I said I found that interesting because this very same DEP official was quoted in a newspaper article as calling the situation in Dimock an anomaly, so I asked him which was it?  Was it typical, or an anomaly?  He said that he didn’t know where I got that info but that I shouldn’t believe everything I read.  Because my water doesn’t have one of the about 15 substances that DEP tests for (Fe, Mn, methane) we have been written off.  I find that to be ridiculous and negligent.  One of my neighbors has been given the very same treatment.  So much for presumptive liability when the wells are drilled within 1000ft from your water well!!!”


Propane tank


Propane truck

“As I research and find that this is happening all over the country, I get more angry!  It’s just wrong.  And to think that in our case we are asking for so little…..they can’t use just a smidgin of the millions that they gain from our hill to give us safe drinking water?  Absurd.”

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So, the natural gas industry wants to increase demand, eh?

Here are a few reasons we need to reduce it: this winter’s rash of natural gas explosions in New England suburbs, and the lives lost:

1. One dead in house explosion

2. Gas leak forces evacuations in Keene

3. Woman killed in gas explosion in Somerset

Before explosion, gas crew waved off help; told firefighters they could leave the scene

4. More natural gas leaks discovered around Gloucester

Owner miraculously survives explosion – ‘Miracle day’

5. 1 Dead In Scituate House Explosion  4 Nearby Homes Condemned After Explosion

The infrastructure is aging: For years Matt Simmons, the only Peak Oil activist among the oil & gas industry elite, has been warning about, besides peak oil, the aging energy delivery system:

“If the world wants to keep using energy from oil and gas, it will have to rebuild the infrastructure and the cost of doing this could rival the combined cost of the World War II war machine, the post-war Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, and the post-war buildout of the U.S. interstate highway system.”

Simmons said the costs could be enormous–in the $50- to $100 trillion range. Triage needs to happen immediately to prioritize which links in the system are the weakest and need to be repaired or replaced first. Pipelines are old, some dating to World War II. The average age of the drilling rig fleets onshore and offshore is 24 years. Refineries are even older.


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