Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Explosion Doesn't Slow Compressor Station Plans for Susquehanna County

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.

The April 17 Public Hearing is scheduled for 6 pm at Montrose High School, 75 Meteor Way.
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.


  1. Thanks Sue, it is sad so few care about any of this....but thanks for your efforts. Seems this particular piece of the planet is willing to forfeit clean air, water, safety for the dollar. Hope they save those first royalty checks so they can pay for their sickness and possibly have enough money to relocated when their home, next to the compressor station is a bit hard to sell.

  2. yes, the footprint keeps expanding -- more impacts on air, land, besides the water and our nerves.

  3. It is preposterous that, only days after an explosion at the Lathrop compressor station, plans for even more compressor stations are actually being presented without major protest. This is especially true since it became clear after the Lathrop explosion that there is no means of regulation of these facilities that has any teeth. The DEP was ineffective at best, and the PUC has no jurisdiction in the case. So what agency serves as watchdog? It would appear that the answer is: There is no agency with any clout to make the gas companies operate safely. No fines. No violation report. Nothing at the Lathrop station. Williams gets off scot-free. What a joke.

  4. Wells come and go but compressors are forever

    What they don't flare, they vent

    What they vent, you breath

  5. These three (or four) Laser compressors are not the whole story. Besides the Lathrop station there are at least three others in Susquehanna County, or on its borders. This is what an industrial complex looks like. And, have you ever seen a map of all the existing or projected pipelines in the county? Probably not. Such a sight would be appalling to many folks, that's why they are hidden from us.

  6. Yes, there will be changes. Any industry will bring that, be it a turbine blade manufacturer, large scale farming, or a new college. That said, much of the propane gel can be reused. If the set of bores on a pad are drilled one after the other, the gel can be largely reused from one bore to the other. As it does not bring up a great deal of dissolved material from the depths of the well it is more easily recycled than the water would be.
    Sue,the other thing to think about is that the fuel that powers our lives comes from somewhere. Even those of us who live simpler lives than most Americans require fuel and plastics. People forget that that ubiquitous substance is made from fossil fuels. Today the electricity for Ithaca is largely from mountain top removal coal. How much of our gasoline is from war torn nations or places where the companies completely ruin the area around the wells? That is very hard to tell. If we can do it better here and work out ways to use that fuel as locally as possible, that has to be an improvement for Mother Earth. It will change (maybe even blight)our area, but is that as important as reducing the total amount of harm done? This is hard to think about, but I believe we need to consider the big picture.
    If you really think there is a better option that will fuel not only our little community but the industries we depend on I wish you would talk more about that. If there are better answers, then we should all join shoulder to shoulder and work for them. If this is the best (ie least destructive to Mama Earth) then I believe we have to accept it....for now. If the energy being spent fighting this was used to figure out better choices.....how much further along could we be?