Understanding Safety Records of Proposed Pipeline

Fracking pipeline company’s safety questioned

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By at least one measure, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. has the worst safety record for its type of business, according to self-reported filings of significant incidents with a regulatory agency.

Among pipeline transmission companies, Tennessee Gas reported more significant incidents to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration than any other operator over the last decade, The Courier-Journal has found.

Tennessee Gas operates in 16 states including neighboring Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee, and the Gulf of Mexico. And most of the reported incidents during the past decade occurred before the company was acquired in 2012 by Kinder Morgan as part its purchase of the El Paso Corp.

Kinder Morgan’s purchase of Tennessee Gas brought improvements in safety procedures, spokeswoman Melissa Ruiz said.

“Safety is Kinder Morgan’s number one priority,” she said.

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Going back to 2004, an analysis of the records through May 2014 by USA TODAY and the C-J shows that of the 142 companies reporting incidents involving transmission lines, Tennessee Gas’ 119 were more than twice the number for the second-highest company, Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co., at 56. Twelve incidents were reported after Kinder Morgan announced its May 2012 purchase of Tennessee Gas.

The 119 incidents caused at least $206 million in damage, the highest total, and at $17,391 in damages per mile of pipe, the costliest damage rate per mile among the 10 companies with the most pipeline.

The top 10 company with the second-costliest damage rate was Houston-based Natural Gas Pipeline of America, at $10,268 per mile, the records show.

Tennessee Gas’ incident rate per mile also was the highest among the 10 companies.

The newspapers’ findings are consistent with a study covering 2006-2013 published last year by the Pipeline Safety Trust, an advocacy group. It found that Tennessee Gas had about double the rate of incidents per mile than the industry average.

“There seems to be a lot of evidence that they don’t pay enough attention to safety,” said Frankfort resident Bob Penky, a volunteer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. The group opposes a plan by Kinder Morgan to convert one of Tennessee Gas’ pipelines to natural gas liquids.

Tennessee Gas’ incidents over the past decade resulted in two injuries and no deaths.

Six incidents were in Kentucky, causing $2.4 million in damage. One was a fiery July 22, 2006, blast in Clark County that propelled piping 200 feet and burned for more than an hour near Winchester, causing $888,000 in damage. Others were in Allen, Greenup and Green counties.

The figures come from incident reports that pipeline companies file themselves with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for any incident that involves an injury, death or at least $50,000 in damage to its or others’ property.

USA TODAY collected the data for a special report last year: “Look out below: Danger lurks underground from aging gas pipes.” It focused on distribution lines operated by utilities, rather than transmission lines like those of Tennessee Gas.

Reach reporter James Bruggers at (502) 582-4645 or on Twitter @jbruggers. USA TODAY’s John Kelly contributed to this report.

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