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“Frack-Free NC” is a network of grassroots organizations who believe that shale gas development using “fracking” and horizontal drilling cannot be done without bringing harm to our waters, land, air, communities and public health. We are working to keep North Carolina frack free. Learn more...

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“Best in Class” Pipeline Explodes 5 months after installation

(Read Clean Water for NC’s “High Consequence Areas, Blast Zones and Public Safety Along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline” Report)

At 4:20 AM on June 7, a pipeline rupture was reported in Marshall County, West Virginia. “This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable and efficient operation.” These were the words used by TransCanada’s president back in January to describe the Leach Xpress pipeline that sent fireballs into the sky early Thursday morning. The fracked gas pipeline installed just five months ago is part of the larger Columbia Gas Transmission network spanning over 10,000 miles throughout Appalachia. While the explosion occurred in the remote area of Nixon Ridge, this area is only 8 miles from Moundsville, a city with a population of about 9,000 and part of the larger Wheeling metropolitan area.

While an investigation is currently underway, this explosion provides an all too real look into pipeline disasters we could face here in North Carolina. Strikingly, the Leach Xpress Pipeline and ACP have exactly the same diameter and operating pressures, and both transport highly explosive fracked gas throughout Appalachia. Even more unsettling, the ACP will be regulated by the same government agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in charge of regulating safety measures for the Leach XPress, and has been under fire for lax pipeline inspections in recent years. Former TransCanada materials engineer-turned whistleblower, Evan Vokes, has been very critical of PHMSA inspection standards, stating “PHMSA regulators did nothing to stop TransCanada from building a pipeline that was bound to fail,” remarking of the Keystone pipeline spill back in 2017.

Thousands and thousands of miles of fracked gas pipelines weave throughout West Virginia and the region is very familiar with explosions. Remarking on the Leach Xpress rupture, residents in the area shrugged the event off, with one man stating to a news reporter, “It’s getting to where you look around and it’s like, there goes another one.”

Opening up the floodgates to networks of fracked gas pipelines in North Carolina puts countless communities at risk of explosions and leaks. By approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, our state governing bodies have created a situation where children growing up in North Carolina could think of exploding gas pipelines as “normal”, waking up in the middle of the night saying, “Look, mom, there goes another one.”

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