Thursday, April 5, 2012

Williams Partners Disregard PA DEP Request At Compressor Station

A compressor station in Susquehanna County, PA, was the site of a huge explosion March 29. Gas seeped into the building and ignited, blowing off part of the roof and damaging two of its seven compressor engines. Despite the DEP's advice NOT to run the station, Williams restarted operations the next day, March 30. It was a "procedural misunderstanding," according to a company spokesperson said. However, a DEP representative said there was no lack of clarity and the DEP is disappointed that its advice was not followed. No enforcement order is being considered, and there may or may not be a fine for either the explosion or the disregarding the DEP shutdown request.

This is totally unacceptable. Is there no way to enforce safe procedures? Gas companies are not scared of regulations or fines. The fines are puny and ineffective. And PA does not have enough inspectors to do the job they need to do to protect people and the environment. Compliance is optional. A company can always argue some fine point of any agreement and get off the hot seat. Even the state Public Utility Commission, which has inspectors on site, is apparently not sure it has jurisdiction over the Lathrop station. In most rural areas (places with 10 or fewer homes within a 220-yard radius of a facility), it does not have jurisdiction. The PUC is still trying to determine if it has oversight authority for the Lathrop station.

So while the gas company Williams, the PA DEP, and the PA DUC all weigh in on this situation, the public remains in possible danger.


John Slesinger said...

As one who has been dealing with the Pa DEP for over 2 years due to water well contamination from gas well drilling, it is my opinion that the root of the problem is not the lack of field inspectors but the inept, dishonest, and yes illegal actions of the higher ups in the regional offices. One only has to look at the DEP employees who have left and where they went. Those holding these positions do not want to make any waves in the department and loose the chance of a better offer.

Peacegirl said...

John- Very interesting and very disturbing comment. Thank you for responding. The sleuthing in regard to DEP employees- those who leave and where they go- would be a worthwhile study in my opinion. Something akin to the swinging door policies in the government I suspect. Thanks for visiting this blog!