From an Associated Press article published 9/13/10:
“‘That’s an issue we’re going to have to look on a bigger scale — situations in which pipes of some age were put in before the dense population arrived and now the dense population is right over the pipe,’ he said.
“Thousands of pipelines nationwide fit the same bill, and they frequently experience mishaps. Federal officials have recorded 2,840 significant gas pipeline accidents since 1990, more than a third causing deaths and significant injuries.”
In February 2009 we posted here:
“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.”
What happened to conservative values? It has been very disappointing to see our conservative values continue to dwindle under the pressure from large corporations. In Texas our politicians talk conservative values right up to the point where they fail to follow them. Two foundation pieces of conservatism, are property rights and the free market system. In Texas, our “conservative” politicians have taken away both from the average Texan. You are allowed to enjoy your property, as long a corporation or someone with more money doesn’t want it. This used to be a state where you could move out in the rural areas, buy a piece of land, and live in peace. Now if you move to the country to have some property, you are an immediate target for a corporation to take your land, or make it unlivable.
The prime example of this is the oil and gas industry. The State of Texas has taken away most of the rights that pertain to land ownership from the citizens and given it to these large corporations. One glaring example is the natural gas pipeline midstream companies, which have been given the tremendous power of eminent domain. These are private, for profit companies that have been awarded all the power of government to condemn property. This not only takes away property rights, but it destroys the free market system that allows for a property owner to negotiate in good faith for the use of their property. Instead the private property owners are immediately subjected to threats and intimidations. Due to these companies being for profit, it is in their best interest to obtain the easement and install the pipeline as cheap as possible, and they use whatever tactic necessary to achieve this. Therefore, private property owners are paid a fraction of the value of the land and not compensated for associated property damage. This is not limited to the active drilling areas, due to pipelines being installed all over the state.
Another example is what is known as forced pooling. It has many names and variations, but again it is another method to transfer private property rights to large corporations. This again takes away the requirement to negotiate in good faith from the private property owner for their mineral properties. In Texas the minerals are the dominant property right, so the surface owners have little input on what happens to their property. However, under forced pooling, the energy companies can even take your minerals without your consent. This again takes away private property rights and undermines the free market system. The private property owner also has no protection if something goes wrong in the process. Therefore, these corporations can take your property without your consent, destroy it, and the only recourse is a lawsuit that may cost the private property owner tens of thousands of dollars.
I have seen other “conservative” states like Pennsylvania following the Texas policy of destroying private property rights, and not allowing private citizens to enjoy their property investments. I would urge the other states to not do it the “Texas Way”. In Texas it is only worth owning property, if you are willing to concede that you have no right to enjoy that property. So you must ask yourself if that is what you want for the citizens of your state. Private property rights and free market system are the values that are important to the “Average Joe” trying to live the American Dream; let’s not continue to destroy this.
Mayor, DISH, TX
“Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it”
May 6, 2010
Parke couple feeling burned by pipeline company
Year after gas explosion, Earls are still waiting for settlement
Howard Greninger The Tribune-Star
ROCKVILLE — It was a year ago this week that Gary J. and Sharon L. Earl saw a huge cloud of smoke near their Parke County home, as flames reached as high as 700 feet into the air and were visible for miles.
“It was a horrifying experience. I was just coming home with the grandkids in the back seat. You could see it from Bellmore and even [Indiana] 47,” Sharon Earl said, recalling May 5, 2009.
It was about 4:22 p.m. when a 24-inch natural gas pipeline exploded not far from the Earls’ house, about 3.6 miles northeast of Rockville, releasing about 7.4 million cubic feet of natural gas, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.It caused a section of pipe about 10 feet in length to be blasted out of the ground, leaving a crater. The ensuing fire torched hundreds of trees and 49 homes were temporarily evacuated within a 1-mile radius of the blast.
The PHMSA indicated a possibility of external corrosion in its corrective action order to Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co., issued May 13, 2009.
The Sunday prior to the explosion, Gary Earl was on a hill in a vehicle with his grandchildren near where the explosion happened. “Just 48 hours prior to the explosion, I was on that hill. I wouldn’t be here today if I was there when it exploded,” he said.
Since that blast, the Earls have documented costs to their restore their property to pre-blast conditions and have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get Eastern Panhandle to cover those costs plus other damages.
Dark, burned trees can be seen along the back end of their property. While they own 200 acres, about 8 acres were engulfed in flames. Those trees now pose a potential danger of falling, especially along a road the couple uses to access a private lake on their property.
In addition, the Earls would often search for mushrooms or ginseng roots among those trees.
“We can’t go in these woods; it’s too dangerous,” said Sharon Earl.
The Earls are seeking to have Panhandle Eastern cut down the burned trees, with new saplings planted in their place.
Another concern comes from large chunks of concrete, used on the original natural gas line from the 1940s, which are strewn across their property. The Earls have spent $12,000 to $15,000 to re-side their house, as siding on the west side melted from the blast, as well as adding rock on a road to access their property.
In addition, the trees that burned had been placed in a state timber management plan. The trees were to be maintained for a future timber harvest.
“We will never see a dime of profit off the trees that were burnt,” Gary Earl said. “That was part of the program that makes the land work for you. That was part of our retirement program.”
Gary Earl said he was more than accommodating in allowing Panhandle Eastern access to repair the damaged line shortly after last year’s explosion.
“They led us to believe they would repair all of this, but once the gas was flowing again, they said it was too rainy and then three days later, they took everything out,” he said.
Panhandle Eastern, in a Nov. 18, 2009, letter, declined to accept an offer for settlement from the Earls and offered to go to a non-binding mediation. The Earls say they have an original right-of-way agreement from the 1930s, which calls for a binding mediation, with each side showing costs. If an agreement is not reached, a third party, selected by both the landowner and company, makes a final decision.
It was in such a meeting that Sharon Earl said the gas company’s attorney simply ended the session and walked out.
“Our attorney was outgunned,” Sharon said. “We are hiring a different attorney. We are pursuing it.” The Earls meet with the new attorney in early June.
“They are bullies, that is how I see it,” Sharon Earl said. “We don’t need their money to live. It is just making right what they have destroyed and abiding by an agreement they made” in the original right-of-way agreement.
In addition, the Earls said they have notified the gas company of another potential problem, a spot about 350 feet from their home where land has subsided next to what is called the “400 line.” The company has since put up an orange-colored fence around that spot.
John Barnett, spokesman for Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co., said he could not specifically comment on any action involving the Earls as they “have their own legal counsel. We have tried to be a good neighbor since the pipeline was built in that area and work with all of the neighbors to resolve any conflict,” Barnett said.
Barnett said the pipeline was reopened on May 26, 2009, initially at a 20 percent reduction in pressure as required by the PHMSA.
“The line is now in service operating at a 10 percent reduction in pressure, at 90 percent of our operating pressure as we continue to work with the PHMSA, which oversees that,” Barnett said.
“We replaced a lot of pipeline in that area. We replaced 634 feet of pipe, which included the damaged section,” Barnett said.
On the 400 line, Barnett said, “There is nothing wrong with the 400 line. There is some subsidence in that area and that is why we put the safety fencing up, to try to block it off so that somebody didn’t accidentally drive some machinery, a tractor or a car over that and cause some problems.
“We did have a geophysics firm into look at that site and they are currently evaluating it. They took all sorts of measurements and they will propose whatever remediation measure they feel is appropriate,” Barnett said.
The Earls said they are accustomed to having pipelines cross through their land, which has been in Gary Earl’s family for three generations. The property now has five natural gas lines that cut through their property.
“We understand that it is part of living in the United States to have utilities and we understand the risk, but the obligation and legal responsibility is to make us whole again. We’re the injured party here. It’s sad. It makes you disillusioned about how you think things are done, which should be the right, moral, ethical way,” Sharon Earl said.To see photos, please visit the original article at TribStar.com
Is natural gas really a clean fuel?
“Natural gas is marketed as a clean fuel with less impact on global warming than oil or coal, a transitional fuel to replace other fossil fuels until some distant future with renewable energy. Some argue that we have an obligation to develop Marcellus Shale gas, despite environmental concerns. I strongly disagree.
“Natural gas as a clean fuel is a myth.”
The Independent Weekender reports:
Landowners’ pipeline group forms
Published: March 17, 2010
A group of Susquehanna and Wyoming County landowners concerned about natural gas pipeline easements has formed, and is willing to share information with other landowners to form their own neighborhood groups or for others to join them.
The Lemon Township Pipeline Group has been meeting for months and its members are looking at a range of easement and right-of-way agreements that leaseholders need to consider as more and more drilling companies come into the area looking to get the gas from the Marcellus shale to market.
Core Lemon group members are concerned that property owners lack adequate information about what’s coming to the area as well as what their rights are when negotiating a natural gas pipeline easement or ‘right-of-way agreements.
Such issues as price, nature, location, type, pipeline depth below surface, installation, road repair, pressure, timetable, abandonment, rights, restrictions and environmental responsibilities are among the many issues that individuals need to consider.
Members of the core group want to impress a sense of strength in numbers in requiring both the drilling and pipeline industry to move forward in a way that indeed is responsible to the region’s environmental well-being, and land stewardship.
Anyone interested in joining the discussion should contact pipelinerowinfo(at)yahoo.com
Excerpt from The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NY on the pipeline explosion in North Blenheim, NY, twenty years ago on March 13, 1990:
Effects of deadly blast still felt
EDWARD MUNGER JR
Earth scarred by the massive explosion that rocked this rural Schoharie County town 20 years ago has since healed and buildings reduced to smoldering rubble have long since vanished.
But people who recall the sudden death of two neighbors and the devastation caused when a pipeline burst say they don’t expect to ever forget the fateful morning of March 13, 1990.
The pipe carrying liquid propane, running north of state Route 30 near West Kill Road in North Blenheim, ruptured and sent a cloud of flammable gas drifting downhill.
The cloud exploded about 7:30 a.m. when it got to the intersection of Route 30 and West Kill Road, killing Blenheim resident and firefighter Robert Hitchcock, 53, and Central Bridge resident Richard Smith, 43. The explosion destroyed 14 homes and injured five people.
New gear added to the pipeline’s infrastructure and town buildings built after the blast — dedicated in honor of Hitchcock – stand as reminders of the devastation today.
And in the 20 years since, more stringent regulations governing pipelines and an added emphasis on safety have accompanied a 10 percent reduction in serious accidents, a government spokesman said.
North Blenheim resident Peter Giesin recalls being in the cellar of his West Kill Road farmhouse when his daughter called to him asking what was going on in the field outside their home.
“I looked out, there’s this white plume. At the time, I thought it was smoke. I thought an airliner had crashed or something,” Giesin said.
The white cloud was a plume of gasified propane that leaked out of the Texas Eastern Products Co.’s underground pipeline — a pipeline run underground in the 1960s despite resident opposition that was ultimately overpowered by eminent domain.
“I realized it was the pipeline blowing this plume of gas across the field which, naturally, was going downhill away from us. Then, within less than five minutes, a ball of fire came back over the hill from downtown where it ignited,” Giesin said.
“The village looked like a war scene. It was just destroyed,” said Blenheim resident Gail Shaffer, who was working as secretary of state in Albany and rushed to the scene.
“When we got to the village, it was all charred remains of buildings. There were 12 or 15 different fire companies with their hoses still on. It was organized chaos at that point,” Shaffer said. “I will never forget.”
Today, offshore and onshore gas transmission lines carrying hazardous liquid such as propane stretch for more than 2.5 million miles in all 50 states, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA.
New York state accounts for a total of 53,275 miles of underground pipelines.
Following the 1990 disaster in North Blenheim, engineers hired by the government determined that several months before the accident, workers from the pipeline company raised the pipe to insert a rubber washer between it and a casing pipe around it. The work was in response to a short circuit detected in the system that uses a small electrical charge to keep the pipe from corroding.
Engineers at the time said the crew filled the pipeline hole back in but the dirt might have been frozen. Once thawed, it allowed the pipe to settle and a weak point in the pipe — a manufacturing defect — broke in half.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation that followed criticized the fact that the pipeline’s operators were unable to detect a drop in pressure when the pipe leaked; the nearest monitoring location was in Gilbertsville, Otsego County, about 15 miles west of Oneonta and roughly 68 miles from North Blenheim. Afterward, the pipeline company installed remote terminal units to monitor the pressure at pump stations and receiving stations.
The same 4,200-mile-long pipeline, which stretches from Texas to Selkirk, Albany County, sprang a leak in January of 2004. An explosion that followed destroyed one home in Delaware County but no injuries were suffered.
Engineers determined the 2004 pipeline leak was caused by frost heave separating a valve from the pipe. Roughly 5,000 gallons of propane in the pipe burned for three days after the blast.
In the 20 years since the blast in North Blenheim, the federal Department of Transportation has created the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, expanding the department’s inspection and enforcement abilities and doubling the number of inspectors and accident investigators, said Damon Hill, a spokesman for the federal DOT.
“Since then, we’ve had a number of regulations introduced that includes regulations for [pipe] integrity management programs, operator qualifications, control room management and quite a few other things to help make pipelines a lot safer,” Hill said.
Among the new standards is a requirement that pipelines be capable of undergoing an internal inspection, he said.
The “call before you dig” number was developed after the Schoharie County explosion, Hill said, to help stem third-party damage to pipelines he said are responsible for the bulk of pipeline failures today.
The pipeline changed hands in terms of ownership, with TEPPCO merging with Enterprise Products Partners LP in October of 2009, Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said.
Complete story available for fee from The Daily Gazette