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Press Release

Update on PUC Safety Division Activities Related to Beaver County Pipeline Incident

Published on 9/12/2018

Filed under: Electric Gas

HARRISBURG – Personnel from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (PUC’s) Pipeline Safety and Electric Safety Divisions are continuing their work in Beaver County following Monday morning’s incident involving a natural gas gathering line.

“We appreciate the strong interest in this incident – especially for the residents directly impacted by the fire and evacuation – and safe pipeline operations is top priority for the Commission,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “It is important to understand that these are complex incidents that require extensive work by PUC engineers and other experts before any conclusions can be reached.”

The PUC Pipeline Safety Division continues to coordinate with local emergency responders to inspect the incident scene – though inclement weather and poor on-site conditions continue to limit access to the site.

Pipeline Safety Engineers have confirmed the following:

  • The incident involved a 24-inch natural gas gathering line located in Center Township, Beaver County, operated by Energy Transfer Partners. Gathering lines are pipelines used to transport crude oil or natural gas from production sites to collection or transmission sites.
  • The pipeline is in what is known as a Class 3 location. Location classification (Class 1 through 4) is based on population density near the pipeline, per federal standards – with Class 1 lines located in the most lightly populated areas and Class 4 lines located in the most densely populated areas.
  • The pipeline falls under the jurisdiction of the PUC’s Pipeline Safety Division based on Act 127 of 2011, the “Pipeline Act,” which expanded the Commission’s authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws as they relate to gas and hazardous liquids pipeline equipment and facilities within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • The pipeline was recently constructed and was in the process of being energized when the incident occurred.
  • The pipeline was pressure tested in 2017 and 2018.
  • The investigation by the PUC’s Pipeline Safety Division will examine all aspects of construction and operation, to identify the nature and cause of the incident.
  • The PUC continues to coordinate with Beaver County Emergency Management, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and other utilities operating in the area around the incident site.
  • Any potential investigations by other state or federal agencies would be separate and independent of the PUC pipeline safety investigation.

In addition to the natural gas line involved in Monday’s incident, there was damage to nearby high voltage electric transmission and distribution lines and towers for FirstEnergy/West Penn Power and Duquesne Light. The utilities were able to re-route power around the damaged area for most customers and service was restored to all remaining locations yesterday. The PUC’s Electric Safety Division and Bureau of Technical Utility Services will continue to receive regular updates from the utilities as permanent repair work continues.

The Pipeline Safety and Electric Safety Divisions are part of the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E). Safety engineers are in the field daily, conducting inspections of utility construction, operations and integrity management activities. They also investigate issues discovered during their inspections, along with incidents reported by utility operators, emergency response agencies and other concerned third parties.

As a policy, I&E does not comment on details of investigations until they result in enforcement action or a formal petition or complaint filed before the Commission. 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

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