This is a breaking story. Here’s what is known right now.
Energy Transfer Partners’ Revolution 24” natural gas pipeline exploded in Center Township, Beaver County shortly before 5 a.m. The pipeline went on line one week ago.
WPXI’s Mike Holden tweeted the company’s statement.
The Associated Press is reporting that one home, two garages, and several cars were destroyed by the explosion. No injuries or deaths have been reported. Holden tweeted from the second press conference of the morning that several horses were rescued. Local police are saying that 6 high tension wires also collapsed, leaving 1,500 without power.
Tom Davidson of TribLIVE posted some video of the press conference in which local authorities say that the Red Cross is on the scene to assist displaced residents and that the PUC will be the agency conducting the investigation.
Today’s blast occurred as the state is being hammered once again with climate-enhanced flooding rain and is preparing for what Hurricane Florence may bring later in the week. Reid Frazier of Allegheny Front reports that the local police chief in Center Township mentioned the 4 to 5 inches of rain the area received and resulting movement of the earth. He says a landslide is possible.
Here’s what else is known.
Governor Tom Wolf has not made a statement on today’s tragedy.
Just over a month ago, Daily Local columnist Bill Rettew approached Wolf at an event at Cheney University, a campus located just a couple of minutes from an area where construction of Energy Transfer Partners’ Mariner East 2 hazardous natural gas liquids pipeline has damaged properties.
Rettew wrote, “I told Wolf that some of his constituents hoped he would visit a pipeline site.
I also told him that we were only two minutes away from a construction site and I could give him a 10-minute tour.
‘I‘ve talked to the pipeline folks,’ he said about a single meeting he had with pipeline foes.
I asked again.’I don’t need to see that,’ Wolf said about the impact of construction, and then he turned away.”
It was at the same event that Rose Strauss tried to ask questions of Wolf. She is the Sunrise Movement activist who was called ‘young and naïve’ by Wolf’s opponent in this year’s gubernatorial election, something his campaign immediately exploited with t-shirts and stickers. But he never addressed the substance of Strauss’ question Scott Wagner deflected with his sexist comment. She was asking Wagner about his position on climate change and why he wouldn’t sign her organization’s No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. Wolf hasn’t signed the pledge either. He has preferred to take at least $98,000 from the oil & gas industry, including $5,000 from Energy Transfer Partners. Wolf ignored Strauss and kept walking.
As Rettew noted, constituents have been calling on Wolf to visit the many sites that have been damaged by drilling mud spills and sinkholes since the pipeline was approved in 2017. The pipeline received its approvals despite the fact that many deficiencies remained in the company’s application. In September of 2016, the Pennsylvania DEP sent 17 letters of deficiency to Sunoco/ETP, each one representing an area along the route. The Berks County letter listed 115 deficiencies. Neighboring counties’ letters contained a similar number. That December, the company responded, but some of the deficiencies remained unaddressed. A series of texts between Wolf’s Deputy Chief of Staff Yesenia Bane and DEP chief Patrick McDonnell suggest that the Governor’s office put political pressure on the agency to approve the pipeline, something the agency did shortly after the text exchange.
And here’s something else.
Ellen Gerhart remains in prison for her attempts to protect her property, its woods, and water resources from the Mariner East 2. She was sentenced to 2 – 6 months for her efforts. It is the harshest sentence given to a pipeline protester to date, but it’s a record that may be broken if the Pennsylvania legislature has its way. SB 652 is a bill that would criminalize pipeline protest based on a template created by the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known by its acronym ALEC. Similar bills have turned up in 30 other states. SB 652 passed the Senate and was sent to the House shortly before the end of summer break. Energy Transfer Partners, the company notorious for its brutal treatment of protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline and more recently the Bayou Bridge pipeline, the company that jailed Ellen, the company responsible for millions of dollars of damage to properties in PA, including those destroyed or damaged in today’s explosion, supports the new bills designed to quash protest. Kelcy Warren, the company’s CEO told CNBC during the Standing Rock protest, "They're going to pay for this. This can't be allowed to happen."
Energy Transfer Partners attributed the explosion to “earth movement”. They refer to heavy rains that have plagued the state for weeks. Climate-enhanced extreme weather events may be challenging the conventional wisdom regulators rely on when they approve pipeline projects.