- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A newspaper reports Pennsylvania has more than 10,000 miles of dangerously leaky, decades-old natural gas distribution pipes and it could cost $11 billion to replace them all.

Federal records show Philadelphia has the highest concentration of leaky gas lines in the state, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/1mrstgq ) reported Tuesday on its website. In 2013, Philadelphia Gas Works reported 89 leaks per hundred miles of gas line - eight times the national average.

The distribution network to homes and businesses, not to be confused with much larger interstate transmission lines, includes nearly 1.3 million miles of pipe nationwide.

Nationally, accidents involving distribution lines have killed more than 120 people, injured more than 500 others and caused more than $775 million in damage since 2004, according to the Tribune-Review analysis.

Peoples Natural Gas and Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania plan to spend more than $1 billion to replace pipe over the next few years. Other utilities around the state and the nation will spend billions more to remove high-risk pipe.

“Should we replace it? Yes. But how do we pay for all of that?” Gov. Tom Corbett told the newspaper in a recent interview. “Replacing (pipe) isn’t as nice as building a park or building a bridge, is it?”

Ken Johnston, Peoples’ vice president of operations, said the company expects to replace the last of its cast iron pipe this year and its approximately 4,000 miles of unprotected and bare steel pipe over 20 years.

Over the past two decades, the American Gas Association says the distribution industry has been able to cut the number of serious incidents and leaks in half, and has undertaken numerous initiatives to reduce excavation damage, which it says is a leading cause of pipeline-related injuries and deaths.

One in five miles of Pennsylvania pipeline - nearly twice the national average - is older than 1960, federal data show. And the older the pipes get, the more they leak, officials say.

When a line breaks, the gas begins to surface. If pavement or packed earth block its rise, the gas can move sideways through softer soil, seeking a hole.

During the past 10 years, gas explosions killed 10 people and injured 21 in the state, and more than 10,000 miles of such pipe remains under Pennsylvania.

The Public Utility Commission estimates it would cost $11 billion - about what the state spends on education this year - to replace. Cast iron makes up half of Philadelphia’s 3,000 miles of pipeline, the Tribune-Review found.

Across the country, nearly 75,000 miles of such pipe remains in use - mostly under Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“We have a ticking time bomb under most of our cities, especially in the Northeast where we have older cities,” warns Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. In 2011, a gas explosion killed five people and destroyed most of a block of that Lehigh County city. He worries that dangerous pipelines will remain in use for decades.

“It’s going to happen again,” Pawlowski said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

___

Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide