Prove your humanity

The state’s public utility commission approved a nearly $2 million settlement with the Texas company responsible for a 2018 pipeline explosion in Beaver County that destroyed one home.

The company’s Revolution pipeline had been in service for only a week in 2018 when it ruptured during a landslide, engulfing a hillside in flames and forcing evacuations. The explosion released 3 million cubic feet of gas and sent flames 150 feet into the air.

No one was injured in the blast, but it killed several house animals, damaged vehicles, and destroyed six high-voltage electric transmission towers and an electrical line.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a record $30 million fine to the company for the blast, focusing on the pipeline’s faulty slope stabilization.

The state’s public utility commission, which oversees pipeline safety, voted three to zero approve $1.975 million in penalties for the pipeline’s owner, Energy Transfer.

The settlement includes a $1 million civil penalty, and approximately $975,000 in additional safety-related measures, including 24-hour monitoring during start-up of the pipeline, increased inspections, and monitoring for slope failures along the pipeline right-of-way.

Residents living near the blast requested a larger fine, but the commission ruled the amount was “a sufficient deterrent” to prevent similar accidents from the company, and that the maximum it was allowed to fine the company under state law is $2 million.

A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer said in an email the company was “pleased with the Commission’s action today.”

PUC investigators proposed the fine in December, after a probe looking into violations of the state’s Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act, which gives the agency the authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws.

The company’s pre-construction analysis found the hillside where the blast occurred had the highest risk of landslide on its rating scale.

PUC investigators found “​​the pipeline was not consistently trenched into bedrock at the failure site and…the newly placed fill did not provide enough structural resistance to prevent movement of the pipe” at the time of the landslide.

The 40-mile pipeline was built to carry gas in Butler, Beaver, Allegheny and Washington counties.

After receiving hundreds of construction violations from the DEP, the line restarted earlier this year.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.