Pipeline Paths A Mystery; Not Being Tracked By State Regulators
4 November 2012
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer
WHEELING - Thousands of miles of natural gas and oil pipelines are
being placed throughout the local region, and neither West
Virginia nor Ohio have regulations in place to map exactly where
the pipelines are going.
This could mean that some transmission lines - such as the
Tennessee Gas Pipeline that ruptured in Columbiana County, Ohio,
last year and set off a massive explosion to be seen for miles -
are never inspected for leaks or corrosion.
''It is not like inspectors are out there tagging these lines.
Companies are just building them," said Tim Greene, owner of Land
and Mineral Management of Appalachia and a former West Virginia
Department of Environmental Protection oil and gas inspector.
"I seriously doubt that 10 years from now, anyone with the state
will know where these pipelines are."
Greene also doubts the companies currently installing the pipes
will keep accurate records as to their location. "It really is
something to consider when looking at a pipeline," added Greene.
"A lot of these are buried. Just because a company may know where
they are now doesn't mean they won't lose track of them at some
There are two major types of natural gas pipelines:
"The (Public Service Commission of West Virginia) has some rules
and regulations for this, but I doubt they know where all the
lines are," Greene said.
PSC spokeswoman Susan Small directed the Sunday News-Register to
the organization's website, which notes that West Virginia
"regulates and inspects the interstate and intrastate gas and
hazardous liquid pipeline operators." This is accomplished through
an agreement with the federal Office of Pipeline Safety, the
When asked if the recent increase in natural gas activity prompted
anyone to suggest the commission increase its oversight of the
pipelines, Small answered "no."
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection - which
issues drilling permits through its Office of Oil and Gas and air
emission permits through the Division of Air Quality - has no
permit for gas pipelines, spokesman Thomas Aluise said.
"The DEP does not regulate gas transmission lines, beyond our
ability to penalize a transmission line company for polluting a
stream during construction," he said.
In Ohio, state Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Linda
Oros said the agency needs to give approval for any pipeline
crossing wetlands or streams.
"They usually try to direct their pipelines around these," Oros
said of the gas companies and the water areas.
Steve Irwin is a spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board, an
organization whose website states that it certifies all natural
gas pipelines in Ohio that are greater than 500 feet in length,
which would cover natural gas transmission lines. However, he said
the board has no jurisdiction over gathering lines or transmission
lines that carry ethane, propane, butane or pentane. This is an
issue to the liquids-rich gas found in the Utica Shale.
"Regulation of gathering lines is left to those at the local
level," Irwin said, noting a county engineer or some other entity
established by a local government would have to track these lines.
Belmont County Engineer Fred Bennett said he has not been involved
with the natural gas pipelines yet, noting his office would
probably only have oversight if the lines are going to cross a
Greene said because state regulators do not keep track of the
gathering lines, property owners who sign right-of-way agreements
to permit pipelines to cross their land should make sure they know
where they are.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people don't even know there is a
pipeline there until something goes wrong with it," he added.