The Philadelphia Inquirer continues its in-depth series on the Marcellus Shale gas rush and regulatory capture of state and federal agencies by the gas industry. It probably doesn’t help that Gov. Tom Corbett is deep in the pocket of the gas companies:
When the owners of the Tennessee natural gas pipeline decided to expand the pipe in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania’s northern tier, the federal safety rules they had to follow filled a book.
For this interstate transmission line running north from the Gulf Coast, the regulations covered everything from the strength of the steel to the welding methods to how deep the pipeline must be buried.
Also in Bradford County, another company – Chesapeake Energy – is building a pipeline the same size as the Tennessee line, 24 inches in diameter. And it’s designed to operate at even higher pressure – up to 1,440 pounds per square inch.
But for this line, in this rural section of shale country, there are no safety rules at all.
Because the second line is classified as a “gathering” pipeline, carrying gas from well fields to transmission lines, safety rules are less stringent. And because that line is in a rural area, it’s totally unregulated.
Bill Wilson lives in neighboring Wyoming County, another crossroads for the new generation of powerful Marcellus gathering lines. He made a study of pipeline rules in his role as president of a group of landowners who negotiated gas and pipeline leases.
He says the calculation that balances safety regulations against population numbers treats rural residents as “collateral damage.”
“It’s all about money. You know that as well as I do,” he said.