Posted: June 9, 2014 - 4:02am
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — Subsidiaries of a pipeline giant that wants to build a $2.1 billion natural gas pipeline project through central Pennsylvania paid the most money last year in fines imposed by the state's environmental regulators, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners LP is considering building the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline to transfer more natural gas from Marcellus Shale-producing areas in northern Pennsylvania to heavily populated East Coast markets.
Lancaster Newspapers reported Sunday that state records show three Williams subsidiaries — Laser Northeast Gathering, Williams Field Services and Laurel Mountain Midstream — paid $388,694 in fines last year. The violations were recorded between March 2011 and September 2012.
Violations included spills and a failure to adequately guard against erosion.
However, it reported that one of those subsidiaries, Laser Northeast Gathering, was not owned by Williams until 2012 and that Williams has a better federal safety record than most other pipeline operators.
Still, Williams facilities have had a recent string of mishaps, including a large explosion March 31 at a liquefied natural gas storage facility in eastern Washington state, injuring five workers, causing hundreds to evacuate from nearby farms and homes, and emitting a mushroom cloud of black smoke that was visible for more than a mile. A sheriff's deputy said the explosion threw 250-pound pieces of steel up to 300 yards in the air and called it "a little bit of a miracle" that no one was killed.
On April 23, a blast at a Williams natural gas processing plant in southwestern Wyoming caused no injuries but led to the evacuation of the town of Opal.
A Williams spokesman told Lancaster Newspapers that the company has commissioned a safety audit by independent experts and it will make any changes that are recommended.
Williams Partners is a subsidiary of The Williams Companies Inc., which operates 15,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines.
On March 31, a Williams subsidiary, the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., submitted a 35-page document with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to request a preapplication review of the project, and the agency agreed. The company intends to formally apply no later than March and begin service on the pipeline by July 1, 2017, it told the commission.
The project would expand the company's existing pipeline system by 193 miles of pipeline in nine Pennsylvania counties — Susquehanna, Wyoming, Luzerne, Lycoming, Clinton, Columbia, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Lebanon, and Lancaster — and Prince William County in Virginia. It would include two new compressor stations and upgrades at two existing compressor stations in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland.