Friday Round-up: EPA Study Connects Water Contamination to Fracking, Millenium Pipeline Settlement and FERC Wants More Information from SpectraDec 9th, 2011 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, NYC Natural Gas Infrastructure
A study of the drinking water in Wyoming released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency yesterday directly connects hydraulic fracturing — or fracking, as it has come to be known in the parlance of our times — by the natural gas industry to water contamination there.
EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer. The draft report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. EPA also re-tested private and public drinking water wells in the community. The samples were consistent with chemicals identified in earlier EPA results released in 2010 and are generally below established health and safety standards. To ensure a transparent and rigorous analysis, EPA is releasing these findings for public comment and will submit them to an independent scientific review panel. The draft findings announced today are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells – production conditions different from those in many other areas of the country.
Specifically, the study noted high concentrations of glycols and alcohols found in fracturing fluids, as well as dangerously high levels of benzene and methane.
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Columbia Gas Transmission, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage and the owners of the Millenium Pipeline in New York’s Southern Tier, has entered into a consent agreement with the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to repair the line, which the agency called a significant risk to the public safety after discovering numerous defective welds and questionable record-keeping practices.
The PHMSA action declaring the Millenium Pipeline a significant public safety risk was first reported by NaturalGasWatch.org on Aug. 3, 2011.
Under the consent agreement, dated Sept. 23, 2011, Columbia Gas “neither admits nor denies the allegations in the Notice, but agrees, for purposes of this proceeding, that the integrity risk identified in the Notice exists as described in the Notice.”
The Millennium pipeline system extends from Independence in Steuben County, New York to Buena Vista in Rockland County, New York.
The provisions of the agreement require Columbia to reduce the operating pressure in the Millenium Pipeline, assess the integrity of the pipeline’s welds under a system to be monitored by a third party to detect any additional anomalies and excavate and repair the defective welds that have already been identified by a review of pipeline construction records.
The assessment and repair work is to be monitored by both PHMSA and the New York Department of Public Service.
The agreement anticipates a completion date of Nov. 1, 2012 for completion of the work outlined in the document.
PHMSA issued a protective public safety order for the Millenium Pipeline on July 6, after a routine surface patrol noticed bubbles emerging from a creek located in a remote part of Tioga County, near the Schneider Road, and subsequently identified a leak that ultimately resulted in the release of more than 1.3 million cubic feet of natural gas into the environment.
Officials at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have directed the natural gas companies that are looking to build a massive new natural gas pipeline through New Jersey and into lower Manhattan to provide more information about how the line would operate and how they companies plan to track the gas that is transmitted through the line, should it be built.
In a Dec. 5 letter, FERC noted that, “several comments have raised concerns regarding the potential operating pressures in the 30-inch diameter pipeline that will transport gas through Jersey City, the Jersey City Meter and Regulation (M&R) station, and ultimately through the newly proposed Manhattan Delivery Point.”
As a result, the agency asked the company to disclose:
- the required minimum design operating pressure necessary to move the gas;
- how the pressure in the 30-inch diameter pipeline is required to meet the flow conditions the pipeline is expected to experience during the gas day;
- how the company can reduce the operating pressures in the 30-inch diameter pipeline through Jersey City while still meeting the contractual hourly and daily delivery requirements to the Manhattan delivery terminal;
- all hydraulic studies and models, in electronic format, used to respond to each request.
FERC directed the company to provide the information no later than Dec. 12.