West Amwell Submission – Explosions even worse than I thought

West Amwell Township, NJ has submitted a lengthy document to the FERC objecting to the pipeline. It’s a very well organized and written submission that goes into great detail why this pipeline is such a bad idea for our town and for the entire region.

There are two areas they discussed especially succinctly:

Public Safety – Explosions

Penn East is proposing a 36-inch natural gas transmission line through West Amwell. This pipeline will have natural gas flowing at the rate of 1 billion cubic feet per day. The effects of an explosion with this rate of energy flow would be disastrous. A 36 inch diameter natural gas transmission line under high pressure, if exploded, could cause radiant heat to ignite secondary fires within a 1,000 foot radius.

PennEast downplays issues of pipeline safety and claims that they will incorporate the best safety practices from construction through operation.

However, in 2012 alone, natural gas transmission lines accounted for more than 80 explosions and fires according to the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a branch of the US Department of Transportation that inspects and regulates the nation’s pipelines. Of the 80 incidents, 38 were classified as significant, PHMSA data show. The 2012 accidents and fires reportedly caused seven injuries, and more than $44 million of damage.

Since 2001, however, natural gas pipeline explosions and other accidents have resulted in the loss of at least 45 lives and many more serious injuries, usually from burns. (FracDallas.org)

In September 2010, a natural gas pipeline explosion rocked neighborhoods of San Bruno, California, killing eight people. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the cause, and in the words of Chairman Deborah Hersman, found “troubling revelations … about a company that exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight and government agencies that placed a blind trust in operators to the detriment of public safety.” And, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer investigative report, such revelations ring true in Pennsylvania, where “hundreds of miles of high-pressure pipelines already have been installed in the shale fields with no government safety checks — no construction standards, no inspections, and no monitoring.”(Food&Water Watch, Natural gas pipeline problems from beginning to end, January 2013)

In an earlier post here I cited a woman concerned about a 400′ “kill-zone”. As it turns out there’s a lot of data on pipeline explosions (unfortunately) and it’s much worse than 400′. Some readers emailed me that the 400′ figure was understating the facts, and as you can see West Amwell Township corroborates this.

West Amwell elementary is within that 1000′ zone. As are several homes in my neighborhood.

The township continues on another safety topic that I personally have been wondering about. How smart is it to co-locate a natural gas pipeline along with high voltage electric line route?

Public Safety – Co-location with transmission lines There is also concern with the co-location of a large, high pressure gas line to overhead electrical transmission lines.

“Transmission lines are considered one of the major sources of magnetic fields. In recent years electromagnetic field (EMF) interference with buried pipelines has been of great interest in the literature. The EMF interference on pipelines located in utility corridors is a real and serious problem which can place both operator safety and pipeline integrity at risk. Installing pipelines in energy utility corridors containing high-voltage AC transmission lines subjects the pipelines to induced AC voltages. This can be caused by an imbalance in the transmission system, and by high voltages near transmission tower grounding systems resulting from lightning strikes and phase faults. When a long-term induced AC voltage exists on a pipeline, it can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening for operations personnel to touch the pipeline or appurtenances. In addition, pipe corrosion also can result from AC discharge”. (Transmission Line EMF Interference with Buried Pipeline: Essential & Cautions M. H. Shwehdi and U. M. Johar)

“The issue of electromagnetic field interference on buried pipelines has been known for over 30 years. When a pipeline runs parallel to a transmission or electric distribution line, the pipeline becomes part of the electrical circuit by electromagnetic and electrostatic coupling (Nelson, 1986). The impact of co-locating metallic pipelines usually buried in the earth directly underneath high-voltage transmission lines can cause electromagnetic interference”. (Issues Affecting Co-Location of Energy Infrastructure, Governor’s Office of Energy and Security, May 2011)

An explosion in a pipeline located near transmission lines, would again, be disastrous.


Read West Amwell’s complete submission below:

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF Alternate site

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Mike Spille

I'm a thinker, an analyzer, a synthesizer. Maybe not in that order. I live in West Amwell NJ with my wife Kristina, our two kids Day and Z, our two dogs Fern and Cinna, and three cats Ponce de Leon, Oliver, and Doolittle.

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