The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has ordered an affiliate of Energy Transfer LP not to fill the Revolution Pipeline with natural gas over ongoing concerns about unstable sections of the system more than two years after it ruptured and exploded in Beaver County. 

Last month, ETC Northeast Pipeline LLC notified DEP that it planned to place the pipeline in service. However, DEP said it remains concerned about placing gas and liquids into the system given previous issues ETC has had with hilly terrain in western Pennsylvania where the system is located. The company claims those concerns are unfounded.

“There are currently numerous unstable slopes along the pipeline route, although ETC received approval to permanently stabilize several of these areas beginning in April 2020,” DEP said. “If another landslide or landslides were to occur, it could displace and separate the Revolution Pipeline and the impacts could be worse than the explosion in 2018 because the pipeline’s contents would be more explosive with the addition of natural gas liquids.”

The pipeline was being packed with natural gas and brought online only days before the explosion in September 2018, when unusually wet weather was blamed for the landslide that caused it to separate. The incident scorched nearby forests, destroyed a home, barn and vehicles, and caused six high voltage electric transmission towers to collapse. There were no injuries.

Early last year, ETC agreed to pay a $30.6 million fine and signed a consent order agreement (COA) allowing it to resume work. Before the COA, DEP had suspended regulatory reviews for all of Energy Transfer’s pending permits because of ETC’s failure to comply with an order to stabilize Revolution and repair erosion controls.

DEP said in its latest order that ETC has violated the COA’s requirement to propose and implement safety designs where the pipeline was constructed in areas of instability across steep slopes and hillsides. The order prevents the company from filling the line until it is permanently stabilized “with a design that achieves the agreed upon factor of safety,” regulators said. 

DEP said the order would remain in effect until it approves ETC’s stability designs.

Energy Transfer said it was not in violation of the COA and said the latest order is another example of how the “DEP has prioritized its hostility toward ETC over environmental protection.”

Spokesperson Alexis Daniel said Energy Transfer has submitted stabilization plans and some of the work has been completed. Where the work has not been completed, DEP has not reviewed the plans and “has refused to do its job and engage in productive discussions.”

As it has worked through issues with the terrain in the area of the blast, ETC in 2019 hired a new management team and consultants to address outstanding regulatory issues.

“Even more troubling is the fact that the DEP insists that additional work be performed on hillside locations that could cause more harm to the environment and ignores the findings of an independent engineering firm that found that the pipeline is installed in stable soil,” Daniel told NGI’s Shale Daily.  

The 100-mile Revolution system moves 400 MMcf/d from production fields in Butler County, PA, to a processing facility in Washington County, PA.