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PUC Seeks Comment On $1 Million Fine For Beaver County Blast

The site of the Revolution Pipeline explosion that occurred in September 2018. Officials have said said heavy rain caused a landslide, leading to the explosion, which destroyed a house..jpg
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The site of the Revolution Pipeline explosion that occurred in September 2018. Officials have said said heavy rain caused a landslide, leading to the explosion, which destroyed a house.

The state’s public utility regulator is seeking comment on a proposed $1 million fine for a Texas company responsible for a 2018 pipeline explosion in Beaver County that destroyed one home.

The company’s Revolution pipeline had been in service for only a week in September 2018 when it ruptured during a landslide, engulfing a hillside in flames and forcing evacuations. The explosion released 3 million cubic feet of gas and sent flames 150 feet into the air.

No one was injured in the blast, but it killed several house animals, damaged vehicles, and destroyed six high-voltage electric transmission towers and an electrical line.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a record $30 million fine to the company for the blast, focusing on the pipeline’s faulty slope stabilization.

Now, the state’s Public Utility Commission, which oversees pipeline safety, voted 4-0 to seek public comment on a proposed $1 million fine for Texas-based Energy Transfer.

As part of the fine, the company would agree to several added safety precautions, including more inspections and additional monitoring for landslides along its route.

PUC investigators proposed the fine in December, after a probe looking into violations of the state’s Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act, which gives the agency the authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws.

The company’s pre-construction analysis reported the hillside where the blast happened had the highest risk of landslide on its rating scale, the investigators said. The area also had “prior slide events at or very near the failure site.”

PUC investigators found “​​the pipeline was not consistently trenched into bedrock at the failure site and…the newly placed fill did not provide enough structural resistance to prevent movement of the pipe” at the time of the landslide.

The public has 20 days to comment on the proposed fine, at the PUC’s website, https://www.puc.pa.gov/filing-resources/efiling/. After that, a spokesman for the commission said it would “study the comments and then consider next steps.”

The 40-mile pipeline was built to carry gas in Butler, Beaver, Allegheny and Washington counties.

After receiving hundreds of construction violations from the DEP, the line restarted earlier this year.

A spokeswoman for the company said, in an email: “We are pleased to have reached this proposed settlement agreement with the PUC and look forward to reaching a full resolution of this issue as we continue to safely operate the pipeline.”

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.

Reid R. Frazier covers energy for The Allegheny Front. His work has taken him as far away as Texas and Louisiana to report on the petrochemical industry and as close to home as Greene County, Pennsylvania to cover the shale gas boom. His award-winning work has also aired on NPR, Marketplace and other outlets. Reid is currently contributing to StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WESA, WITF and WHYY covering the Commonwealth's energy economy. Email: reid@alleghenyfront.org
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