Prove your humanity

A pipeline that exploded in 2018 is back in service following an agreement between the company that owns it and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

Texas-based Energy Transfer is sending gas through the Revolution pipeline, 2½ years after a section of it failed during a landslide in Beaver County. 

As part of the settlement, the company will pay a $125,000 fine. 

The Revolution pipeline had barely been in service for a week before the explosion in September 2018. The resulting fire destroyed one building, killed animals and forced the evacuation of dozens of residents. 

The blast led the DEP to levy a record $30.6 million civil penalty against the company through a January 2020 consent order and agreement.

As the company rebuilt the pipeline, the DEP noted hundreds of violationslike slope failures and erosion along its route. In November, the agency barred Energy Transfer from re-starting the pipeline. 

The company appealed and the two sides settled in a Feb. 26 agreement. 

The agency said the company has put in enough safety precautions, like installing new drainage infrastructure, as well as groundwater and slope monitors, to make the ground beneath pipeline route stable. The company is required to implement additional measures at certain points in the route to stabilize the ground above the pipeline. 

Once the entire pipeline is permanently stabilized,” said DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley, the ground above the pipeline will “also have that same factor of safety.” 

The DEP says the company has come up with an acceptable contingency plan to empty the pipeline in the event of another landslide. The plan includes several locations for gas to be flared in case the pipeline is shut down. 

As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to install additional drainage features at steep slopes along the route, and submit a revised stabilization plan for one steep section near Penny Hollow Road in Beaver County. The plan will include installing “smart” slope monitors that measure the stability of the soil, and “strain gauges” that monitor strain on the pipeline itself. Until the “smart” monitors are in place, the company has agreed to monitor the site daily “to identify whether the hillside is showing signs of instability.” 

Energy Transfer, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

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.