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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Northern Pennsylvania gas explosion was out of regulatory reach

Houses trembled a half mile away when a natural gas explosion rattled a compressor station near Springville, a hotbed of Marcellus Shale development in northern Pennsylvania.
Just two hours after the March 29 blast, a gas safety inspector from the state Public Utility Commission was on the scene to begin an investigation into possible violations of gas safety rules. But he did not get far.
The PUC shut down its examination last week after determining the station was in a rural area - and thus outside its regulatory reach.
"It's not in our jurisdiction," said Jennifer Kocher, a PUC spokeswoman. "There's nothing we can do."
The incident is a pointed example of the gap in pipeline safety rules as the industry continues its rapid expansion in the Marcellus Shale fields of Pennsylvania.
An Inquirer series last year found that this gap, coupled with a slow response from Pennsylvania, meant that hundreds of miles of high-pressure pipelines had been built with no safety oversight. Up to 25,000 miles could be built, experts say.Read More...