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Landslide, Rupture Issues Raise Problems for Gas Pipeline Permit

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EQT's proposed Hammerhead Pipeline would originate in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania before crossing Marion, Monongalia and Wetzel counties in West Virginia. (EQT)
EQT's proposed Hammerhead Pipeline would originate in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania before crossing Marion, Monongalia and Wetzel counties in West Virginia. (EQT)
 By Dan HeymanContact
January 11, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – A gas pipeline rupture and explosion last summer is raising related worries about a current pipeline proposal.

Last June, Columbia Gas said a landslide after heavy rains caused its brand new pipeline to rupture and explode just south of Moundsville.

Jim Kotcon, on the Energy Committee of the Sierra Club's West Virginia Chapter, said a line proposed southeast of that area is just as vulnerable.

Kotcon said more than two-fifths of EQT's Hammerhead Pipeline would be built on slopes 35 degrees or steeper. He noted last summer's explosion could have been deadly.

"Fortunately, that was in a remote wooded area and so, there were no injuries," Kotcon said. "But some of these very steep slopes are just inherently inappropriate for that kind of construction. There's a real risk of pipeline rupture."

The Hammerhead Pipeline is one of a number of pipelines being proposed to open what supporters describe as a "bottleneck" in getting natural gas to market from Marcellus and Utica fracking wells.

An energy lobbyist recently told state lawmakers that "rogue environmental groups" were responsible for pipeline legal delays.

The 30-inch Hammerhead line could carry 1.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. It would run from southwestern Pennsylvania through three West Virginia counties to join EQT's huge Mountain Valley Pipeline in Wetzel County.

According to Kotcon, pipelines are often being built by crews unprepared to deal with the area's steep terrain, which is subject to constant erosion and sediment problems.

"They're used to working in areas like Oklahoma and Texas, where they just don't have the same steep terrain," he added. "As a matter of just common sense and safety, it makes sense to reroute the pipeline away from those very steep slopes."

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection hasn't yet issued a stormwater and sediment control permit for the Hammerhead Pipeline.

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