Allegheny Defense Project
Spectra's Pipeline Explosion
On April 29, 2016, a pipeline owned by Texas Eastern Transmission (a subsidiary of Spectra Energy) exploded in Salem Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. According to Spectra Energy, the line that exploded, Line 27, is one of four lines in the pipeline right-of-way (ROW). The other three pipelines in the ROW are Lines 12, 19, and 28. Spectra says that Line 27 was last inspected in 2012 and "revealed no areas requiring repair or remediation before the next inspection." What the public may not know is that in 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitted Spectra to increase the horsepower at the company's Delmont Compressor Station, just 1-2 miles upstream of the explosion site. The increase in compression was part of Spectra's "Texas Eastern Appalachia to Market 2014 Project" (TEAM 2014) (FERC Docket No. CP13-84-000). portions of the pipeline near the site of the explosion did not have to comply with certain federal safety regulations. In 2006, Spectra Energy, which at the time was called Duke Energy Gas Transmission, petitioned the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to waive certain safety regulations for two gas lines (Line 12 and Line 19) in Westmoreland County. See the following documents and images below for more information.
On October 10, 2006, Duke Energy Gas Transmission (which later became Spectra Energy) petitioned PHMSA to waive certain federal safety requirements for two Texas Eastern gas lines (Line 12 and Line 19) in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The petition identifies Line 12 as a 24-inch diameter pipeline that was installed in 1954. The petition identifies Line 19 as a 30-inch diameter pipeline that was installed in 1966. Both pipelines had a "maximum allowable operating pressure" (MAOP) of 1,050 pounds per square inch gauge (psig).
According to the company, it sought a "petition for a Waiver from existing 49 CFR Part 192.611 class location change requirements" for these two pipelines, which are located "downstream of [Texas Eastern's] Delmont Compressor Station in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania." According to the company, both segments (Line 12 from milepost 3.51 to 5.16 and Line 19 from milepost 3.08 to 4.78) "are changing from Class 1 to Class 2 due to new single family dwellings in the area." The waiver would allow the company to continue operating these pipelines "at their existing [MAOP] of 1,050 psig without replacing the pipe in the new Class 2 area."
On February 8, 2007, PHMSA published several "requests for waivers" in the Federal Register. One of the waiver requests identified is the one submitted by Duke Energy Gas Transmission, which was now called Spectra Energy Transmission. The waiver request was assigned Docket No. "PHMSA-2007-27122."
On July 28, 2008, PHMSA sent a letter to Spectra Energy stating that more information was needed in order to process Spectra's waiver request for Line 12. According to PHMSA, "the level of detail is insufficient to provide substantial justification with regards to potential longitudinal seam failures on Line 12 . . . If the long seam evaluation shows the Line 12 pipeline segment is susceptible to longitudinal seam failure, PHMSA may deny the special permit. Should the special permit be denied, [Texas Eastern] will be expected to immediately undertake actions to fully comply with the regulatory requirements in 49 CFR §192.611."
In this same letter, PHMSA denied Spectra's request to waive the safety regulations for Line 19. According to PHMSA, "[b]ecause the [Texas Eastern] Line 19 operates at up to 81% SMYS [specified minimum yield strength], we cannot consider this segment for a special permit." PHMSA's denial meant that Spectra had to immediately comply with 49 CFR § 192.611, which in turn meant that Spectra should have replaced this section of pipeline.
On September 29, 2008, Spectra sent a letter to PHMSA requesting an additional year to respond to the agency's information request regarding Line 12.