FERC Tells Spectra To Answer for Safety Violations; Pipeline Safety Regulators Cite Spectra Again for Failing to Control Natural Gas Pipeline CorrosionDec 5th, 2011 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, Regulation
When it comes to the federal government, it sometimes seems as if the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.
A case in point: the massive new natural gas pipeline that Spectra Energy has proposed to build through New Jersey and under the Hudson River, into lower Manhattan, where it would bring shale gas directly from the Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing fields into New York City.
On Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has already issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that seems to favor the project, sent a 10-page letter (which you can read here: FERC Spectra info request) to Spectra seeking additional information about a slew of topics, including proposed alternatives, drilling techniques, water resources, land use and, perhaps most importantly, public safety.
Specifically, FERC asked Spectra to answer for the 17 safety violations that federal inspectors from the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration wrote up on June 13 in connection with an inspection of Spectra facilities, a set of pipeline safety violations that were first reported here on NaturalGasWatch.org several months ago.
From the Dec. 2 FERC letter to Spectra:
In June 2011, Spectra Energy was cited by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for 17 inadequacies in its pipeline safety operations and procedures, including pipeline surveillance, emergency plans, and welding procedures. Discuss the actions Spectra has taken/is taking to improve safety operations and procedures
Spectra has until Dec. 12 to file a complete response to the FERC request.
But the 17 pipeline safety violations that FERC has inquired about represent only the tip of a very large iceberg, according to additional documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.
Indeed, according to PHMSA documents, Spectra — through one of its two subsidiaries on the New Jersey/NYC pipeline project, the Algonquin Gas Transmission Co. or the Texas Eastern Transmission LP — has been cited by federal pipeline safety regulators now fewer than five times this year alone, accumulating at least 22 probable violations of pipeline safety regulations.
The laundry list of potential violations includes one issued by PHMSA as recently as Oct. 7, 2011. In a letter dated Oct. 7, 2011, federal regulators cited Spectra for failing to control corrosion in its natural gas pipelines in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
From the Oct. 7, 2011 PHMSA letter to Spectra to the Texas Eastern Transmission LP (TETLP):
TETLP failed to take prompt remedial action to correct deficiencies it found during external corrosion control monitoring (testing) at the two cathodic protection test stations listed below. … TETLP records showed that during its external corrosion control monitoring tests conducted in 2009, 2010, and 2011, TETLP identified low cathodic protection (CP) readings at the two test stations listed below but did not correct these deficiencies promptly. These deficiencies had still not been corrected at the time of the PHMSA inspection (May to July 2011) nearly two years after the initial discovery of the deficiencies.
You can read the complete PHMSA document here: Spectra Oct 2011 PHMSA cite.
PHMSA is seeking $19,000 in civil penalties from Spectra in connection with the alleged violations, and the case is still considered open according to agency records.
Perhaps someone at FERC should dash off another letter to Spectra officials asking them about this most recent set of allegations before they issue that final EIS for the New Jersey/New York City pipeline. After all, serious questions deserve serious answers.
And you, gentle reader, if you’d be so kind — please click on one of the advertisements you might see on this site. Reading these documents so FERC doesn’t have to is very time intensive and your participation will help keep NaturalGasWatch.org up and running.