Sissonville, WV pipeline explosion: December 11, 2012

This Sissonville, WV transmission line is very similar in size and pressure to some gathering lines within the Marcellus Shale Northern Tier gas fields. Gathering lines of similar size and pressure will act and look just like this transmission line in the event of a pipeline failure.
To read more on the investigation behind the Sissonville pipeline explosion, please click here.


Pipeline emergencies are not just concerning pipelines — transmission, gathering, distribution; but also, compressor stations.  Please note that most of the gathering lines and compressor stations located throughout the Northern Tier Region remain unregulated and non-jurisdictional.  Thus, the industry is largely responsible for the manner in which they respond and resolve an issue.  For further information, please review our Pipelines – Regulations & Safety Issues page.  What that means is the PUC has no authority during an emergency in Class 1 Area locations, and the only DEP response will be regarding a possible air quality issue.  When it comes to safety, currently, that is the industry’s purview in Class 1 Area locations.

The industry has been providing site specific training to specific volunteer first responders on an as needed basis.  The training varies from operator to operator.  Some training has been provided that required our first responders to travel a distance, and so it is unclear how many actually participated.  C.O.G.E.N.T. is advocating for more thorough and continual training for our volunteer first responders, training that is available to them within their specific counties.  Currently, regarding pipeline emergencies, the Office of the State Fire Commissioner offers no training opportunities for volunteer first responders.

Responding to a pipeline or compressor station emergency is not exactly the same as responding to a house or barn fire.  These emergencies involve very intense, hot fires, and explosions.   They may involve multiple structures.   As can be noted from the events that have occurred,  such as in San Bruno, no one action goes wrong.   It is a chain of events, sometimes human errors, sometimes equipment malfunctions due to corrosion, and sometimes third party damage.  Whatever the reason, our volunteer first responders need to be adequately trained and ready to respond to aid the public.