|Smoke billowing from Lathrop compressor station. (by Frank Finan)|
On Tuesday, April 17 the PA Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public meeting and hearing to discuss air quality plan approval applications from Laser Northeast Gathering, a subsidiary of Williams Partners. The company plans to construct three separate natural gas compressor stations in Liberty, Middletown and Forest Lake townships in Susquehanna County, PA.
This hearing comes less than 3 weeks from an explosion and fire at the Williams Partners’ Lathrop compressor station in Springville Twp, also in Susquehanna County. On the morning of March 29 neighbors were surprised with a bang and shaking ground, followed by thick, black smoke spewing from the Lathrop compressor.
The facility, which houses seven compressor engines, has only been on-line just under two years – they started operations in June of 2010. The compressor station is linked to at least 10 wells and, according to a Cabot Oil & Gas spokesperson, moves approximately 365 million cubic feet of gas every day.
Media reports place blame for the explosion on a small gas leak. Fortunately, the leak triggered an evacuation alarm and automatic shut-down procedure.
On-scene investigators speculated that it might take months for the station to resume operations, and DEP told Williams not to restart the compressor without the agency’s permission. But within a couple days the company had the compressor up and running again. Everything worked properly, claims the company. As for state agencies, they don’t seem to have any regulatory authority. The PA state Public Utility Commission halted its investigation after determining the station was “outside its regulatory reach”.
As for the new compressor stations Williams has planned for Susquehanna County – well, maybe the public will have something to say about those.
Rescheduled for Thursday April 26 at 6 pm in Elk Lake High School, 2380 Elk Lake School Road in Springville. DEP will explain the review process. The hearing portion opens at 7:30 pm and people will be allowed to present up to 5 minutes of testimony. DEP is accepting written comment submitted by May 17; mail comments to: DEP Air Quality Program Manager, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703. For more information, visit www.dep.state.pa.us or call 570-826-2511.