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Pipeline problems persist;frustration mounts

September 21, 2011

Keeping up with inspections of two major pipeline projects in Pike County has consumed the limited resources of the small staff at the Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) since spring, when the 12-mile Columbia Gas Pipeline project kicked off, followed closely by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) expansion of its 300 Line. Both projects involve massive amounts of earth disturbance and multiple stream and wetlands crossings.

The projects have stretched PCCD resources to the limit as related issues multiply across the miles of raw earth (approximately 300 acres in Pike County) resulting from the clearing activities associated with right of way (ROW) expansion, access roads, staging areas and temporary workspace.

While the Columbia project is nearing completion as it works through the restoration phase, the project has managed to accumulate numerous violations and may be facing additional penalties. Meanwhile, PCCD staff have documented 45 violations with 16 pollution events impacting Pike County waters as a result of the TGP project activities, according to PCCD executive director Susan Beecher.

In Wayne County, conservation district resource conservationist Len Grover has logged 14 violations of varying severity on the TGP project, with some as simple as breached silt fences. Five others have involved pollution events with impacts to waters or wetlands and resulted in formal notices of violation.

Similar experiences in Susquehanna County have prompted several conference calls organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Northeast Regional Office with all three districts, TGP officials and TGP’s contractor Henkels and McCoy.

Both projects have suffered from excessive amounts of rainfall this year, but Beecher contends that the overarching problem lies in the approach taken. “The way that they’re constructed is not conducive to water resource protection,” she said. “These projects simply have too much pipeline right-of-way opened up for too long, sometimes months. Best Management Practice (BMP) maintenance is a constant challenge when miles of right-of-way are disturbed for long periods.

“We believe the pipeline companies should stage construction in critical areas, such as stream and wetland crossings and approaches, to limit the time between initial earth disturbance and final stabilization. Having the whole length of ROW disturbed at one time over a period of months is problematic for water resource protection.”

In today's NY Times

Clifford Krauss wrote an article in today's paper, on how 100 mcf per day of ngas is being flared (burned as a method of disposal)in order to extract more quickly the more profitable oil and liquid that results from the frac'ing of the Bakken shale in western North Dakota. This amount is capable of heating 500,000 homes per year, and they are just releasing into the atmosphere all the toxins and carbon dioxide that is equal to the exhaust of over 384,000 cars, just to make a profit more quickly.

Is it any wonder that the Tennesee Gas Pipeline is racking up violation after violation in seeking the same? Despite the overwhelming evidence on a daily basis that our states do not have either the regulation, or enforcement capacity, especially when it comes to emmissions, we hear from shale gas proponents and the industry that the EPA would be redundant, and that regulation would be a "job killer".

This all blatantly defies reality. The question is "what will it take for people to wake up" to the destruction of our air and water? When all "fresh" water needs to be purified, or is sold to us in a plastic jug by corporations at the same price of gasoline, will it be then? Or, will it just be when 80% of our infants and toddlers suffer from feeding disorders, are born prematurely, or with severe learning disabilities? Or, in the end, 90% of children suffer from asthma, instead of only the 25% that we currently see in the Barnett shale gas extraction areas?