SAFETY VIOLATIONS DISCOVERED WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF VERMONT GAS ANGP PIPELINE
Rachel Smolker, (802) 482-2848, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Macuga, (802)238-5777, email@example.com
On discovering multiple serious safety violations and problems with the construction of the Vermont Gas ANGP pipeline, intervenors in the ongoing investigation case before the PUC (17-3550-INV) filed a compelling motion to broaden the scope of the case.
The filing states: “sufficient information has been provided to lead a reasonable observer to conclude that Vermont Gas Systems committed widespread, repeated and potentially catastrophic violations of critical public safety requirements of the Certificate of Public Good. It also violated an environmental protection requirement that is essential to protecting wetlands.”
The filing (available via ePUC) details 7 safety violations including:
- Burying pipeline with known coating damage and lack of records of inspection of coatings.
- Failure to install specified sand padding and support under the pipe, instead laying the pipe directly on the bottom of trench.
- Failure to compact trench backfilling materials as specified, or to perform required testing of compaction.
- Failure to install, or keep records of installation of zinc ribbon, used to protect against corrosion in areas of electrical influence.
- Use of an unapproved method for installing pipeline in at least “several” swamps along the route.
- Lack of a mandated “Quality Assurance Plan” throughout much of the construction as was required.
- Failure to install bentonite trenchbreakers, which prevent draining from streams and wetlands, in at least 13 locations, and failure to keep records of locations.
Rachel Smolker, one of the intervenors stated: “We have done multiple public record requests and discovery requests in this case, which resulted in thousands of pages of documentation, so our findings are derived from studying VGS and DPS own records and communications. The current case began when VGS admitted to too shallow burial in a swamp in New Haven, something they only admitted because we took photos and delivered them to the federal pipeline hazardous material safety administration (PHMSA). The problems in that one swamp we happen to know about are not limited to too shallow depth – there is no padding and support under and around the pipeline, and no compaction of trench backfill. Further, this swampy area, recognized as a “state significant area” for its’ ecology and flooding regime, is close to the VELCO high voltage transmission wire corridor, an area of “electrical influence” – meaning it required special zinc ribbon installation to mitigate against corrosion. Evidence indicates that the zinc ribbon was never installed. Multiple compounded risks we know about are not likely limited to this one swamp. Anyone living along the pipeline route should be concerned.”
Meanwhile, over the past several days, VGS has been flaring gas at the Middlebury gate station, alarming residents who can hear the roar and see the flames shooting into the air for miles around. VGS is running an “in line inspection” tool which is carried through the pipe by the pressure and flow of gas. Yet there are not enough customers purchasing gas to raise the pressure in the pipe to the necessary level to carry the tool. DPS’s gas engineer in April 2017 reported to PHMSA that “Only approximately 20 customers are utilizing gas transported by way of the 30 mile long segment downstream of Section One.”
So VGS is adding gas at the north end and flaring it down in Middlebury to raise the pressure. Gas has been flowing in the pipeline through to Middlebury for almost a year without the inspection having been completed due to weak demand for the gas.
Multiple safety violations and lagging inspections put landowners at risk all along the route, in order to serve gas to a handful of customers.