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US Farms and Agricultural Production near Drilling

Health vs. Power – Risking America’s Food for Energy

Over 50% of land in the United States is dedicated to agriculture. Oil and gas development, particularly hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” is taking place near many of these farms.

Farms feed us, and unfortunately they are not protected from the impacts of fracking. Even if drilling can be done responsibly, accidents happen. In Colorado, for example, two spills occur on average per day, 15% of which result in water contamination. [1] Risking our food supply is not only a risk to our health – it’s a risk to national security.

Food Independence

Rocky Mountain Apple Orchard by Celia Roberts

Rocky Mountain apple orchard. Photo by Celia Roberts

Domestic oil and gas production has been promoted by the industry as a means to provide the U.S. with energy independence. The argument goes something like this: “We need to be a net exporter of energy so as to reduce our reliance on foreign countries for these resources, especially countries in the Middle East.” This ignores the point that for energy security we might want to keep rather than export fossil fuels.

However, energy independence and food independence are inextricably linked.

Considering that the basic human needs are clean water, food, shelter, and safety — along with energy — we need to think about self-reliance; we can’t be dependent on foreign countries for our food. The U.S. is currently a net exporter of agricultural products, and California produces 50% of the food consumed in the U.S. But what would happen if our foodsheds became contaminated?

Drilling Proximity – Why the concern?

Front Range, Colorado Working Landscape At Risk of Unconventional Oil & Gas Drilling by Rita Clagget

Front Range, Colorado working landscape at risk of unconventional oil & gas drilling. Photo by Rita Clagget

Over 58% of US agricultural market value and 74% of US farms – both conventional and organic – operate within shale basins, active shale plays, and the primary frac sand geologies.

Why is this so important? Why be concerned? Here are just a few reasons:

  1. People can be exposed to the compounds involved with oil and gas extraction through spills, emissions, and other processes. The top five health impacts associated with these chemicals are: respiratory, nervous system, birth defects, and reproductive problems, blood disorders, and cancer.[2]
  2. Rural gas gathering pipelines are unregulated; operators have no obligation to publicly report about incremental failures along the pipeline that may contaminate soil and water as long as they don’t require evacuations.[3]
  3. Oil and gas operators are exempt from certain provisions of several environmental laws designed to protect public health and safety, including the Safe Water Drinking Act, The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, and The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. These exemptions, in a way, permit oil and gas operators to contaminate water supplies with chemicals from their operations, in particular hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced wastewater.[4]
  4. The gold standard of clean, chemical-free food is the USDA National Organic Program Standards, as governed by the Organic Foods Production Act. Unfortunately, organic certification does not require testing for oil and gas chemicals in water being used in organic production. The organic standard is satisfied as long as state, water, and food safety agencies deem the water safe. To our knowledge these agencies do not test for oil and gas chemicals.[5]
  5. Based on available data spills occur regularly. Recent research has identified that the mixture of chemicals from fracking fluid and produced wastewater interact in a way that can lead to soil accumulation of these chemicals. Potentially, then, the chemicals may be absorbed by plants.[6] Fifteen chemicals often used in fracking have been identified as toxic, persistent and fast-traveling.[7] Some farms – such as those in Southern California – are being irrigated with produced water from oil and gas operations. Additionally, every single farm in the San Jaoquin Valley is within eight miles of oil and gas operations.[8]
  6. There is significant Competition for water between natural gas production and agriculture. This includes growing commodity crops for energy, such as ethanol. Natural gas operations result in removing water quantity available for agriculture, and changing the water quality, which affects the agricultural product. In drought stricken areas, water scarcity is already an issue. In addition, extreme heat as a result of climate change is putting more stress on farmers operating in already depleted watersheds. Layered on all of this is the growing realization that precipitation regimes are gradually – and in many places dramatically – transitioning from many smaller and more predictable events to fewer, more intense, and less predictable rain and snow events which is are harder for the landscape to capture, process, and store for agricultural and/or other uses.
  7. Operating costs: Farmers are already operating under razor- thin margins, with the cost of inputs continually increasing and the resilience of the soils and watersheds they rely upon coming into question with unconventional oil and gas’ expansion across the Midwest and Great Plains.

Public Lands

Over 45% of lands in the Western United States are owned by the federal government. Opening up public lands—by the Bureau of Land Management, United State Forest Service in particular—is controversial on multiple levels. As it relates to food security and independence, the issue often missed is that many headwaters to prime farmland reside on federal lands, along with the majority of cattle grazing.

There isn’t enough private land in the West for oil and gas operators to reach their production goals. They have to drill on public lands in order to scale up production and develop an export market for domestic natural gas. This means that public lands, taxpayer funded public lands, could potentially be used to irreparably harm prime agricultural and grazing lands (foodsheds). More alarming, is that the Trump Administration is focused on unfettered development, extraction and distribution of natural gas resources, including opening up public lands to oil and gas leasing and gutting regulations that protect us from pollution and public health risks.

The map we have developed shows that many of the largest farms in the West are surrounded by public lands. Sixty-percent of Colorado farms are surrounded by public lands, which are within shale basins or active shale plays.  Four of the top natural gas producing counties in Colorado are also four of the top agricultural producing counties: Weld, Mesa, Montezuma, and LaPlata counties. The third, fifth, sixth, eighth and tenth agricultural producing counties in the State are surrounded by public lands within shale basins, respectively,: Larimer, Delta, El Paso, Montrose and Douglas counties. The 6,325 farms in these counties represent 17% of all Colorado farms, and 29% (nearly half) of Colorado at-risk farms for being surrounded by public lands and within shale basins.

Colorado: Public lands surround majority of farms.

Colorado: Public lands surround majority of farms.

Colorado: zoom into 3 of top agricultural producing and natural gas producing counties in Colorado, illustrating how they are surrounded by public lands.

Colorado: Map zoomed into 3 of top agricultural producing and natural gas producing counties in Colorado, illustrating how they are surrounded by public lands.

food-table

These farms, headwaters, and public lands need to be protected if we are to maintain food independence and security. Producing potentially contaminated food is neither food independence, nor food security.

Policy Implications

Why should policy makers and health insurers care? Chronic and terminal illnesses are on the rise. Healthcare costs have nowhere to go but up as long as the environment we live in, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe continue to be polluted at such a large scale. Attempts to reduce healthcare costs by insuring all Americans will have no impact if they are all sick. The insurance model only works when there are more healthy people in the pool than unhealthy people.

Mapping Conventional & Organic U.S. Farms

Below is an interactive map showing agricultural production in the U.S. You can use the map to zoom in at the county level to understand better the type of agricultural production taking place, as well as the value of the agricultural products at the county level.

U.S. Conventional and Organic Farms and Their Productivity Near Shale Plays and Basins

View map fullscreen | How FracTracker maps work

This map excludes Alaska for a variety of reasons[9]. We include over 180 unique data points for each county across five categories: 1) Crops and Plants, 2) Economics, 3) Farms, 4) Livestock and Animals, and 5) Operators. We then break these major categories into 20 subcategories.

Table 1. Subcategories Utilized in the “US Shale Plays and Basins Along with Agricultural Productivity By County” map above

Categories Subcategories
Crops and Plants Field Crops Harvested
Fruits, Tree Nuts, Berries, Nursery and Greenhouse
Hay and Forage Crops Harvested
Seed Crops Harvested
Vegetables and Melons Harvested
Economics Buildings, Machinery and Equipment on Operation
Farm Production Expenses
Farm-Related Income and Direct Sales
Farms by Value of Sales
Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold
Farms Agricultural Chemicals Used
Farms
Farms by Size
Farms by Type of Organization
Land in Farms and Land Use
Livestock and Animals Livestock, Poultry, and Other Animals
Operators Characteristics of Farm Operators
Hired Farm Labor
Primary Occupation of Operator
Tenure of Farm Operators and Farm Operations

Analysis Results

In total, there are 589,922 and 1,369,961 farms in US Shale Plays and Basins, respectively, averaging between 589 and 646 acres in size and spread across 2,146 counties (Figure 1). These farm counties produce roughly $87.31- 218.32 billion in agricultural products each year with the highest value per-acre being the Monterey and Monterey-Temblor Formations of Southern California, the Niobrara Formation in North Central Colorado, Eastern Barnett in North Central Texas, the Antrim in Michigan, and the Northern Appalachian Shale Basins of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio (Figures 2a/2b). Roughly 52% of all agricultural revenue generated in US Shale Play counties comes from livestock, poultry, and derivative products vs. a national average of 44% (Figure 3).

Put another way, the value of US Shale Basin agricultural infrastructure would rank as the 9th largest economy worldwide, between Italy and Brazil.

Family-owned farms are at the greatest risk. While corporations tend to own larger acreage farms, only 8.2% of US farms are owned by corporations. This figure is nearly halved in US Shale Plays, with 4.5% of farms owned by corporations, or 95% owned by families or individuals.


Figures 1, 2a, 2b, and 3 above show the number of farms near drilling, as well as variations in the value of agricultural products produced in those regions.

Risk vs. Benefits in CO

Oil and gas activity is regulated on a somewhat patchwork basis, but generally it is overseen at the state level subject to federal laws. New York and Maryland are the only two states that ban fracking, while communities around the country have invoked zoning laws to ban fracking or impose moratoriums on a smaller scale. However, in Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas regulation in the State. There, fracking bans imposed by local communities, with a large number of farms, have been found to be unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Weld County is Colorado’s leading producer of cattle, grain, and sugar beets. Weld is the richest agricultural county in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, the fourth richest overall nationally, and the largest natural gas producer in CO. Compare this to the North Fork Valley on the Western Slope of CO, which is home to the largest concentration of organic farms in the state, one of two viticultural (wine making) areas in the state, and has a reputation for being a farm-to-table hub. Delta County, in which the North Fork Valley is located, is known for its sustainable agriculture initiatives. Uniquely, Delta County is one of the few agricultural areas in the country so far untouched by the fracking boom – but that could all change. The Bureau of Land Management is considering opening 95% of BLM lands and minerals within and surrounding Delta County to oil and gas leasing.

Protecting Food Supplies

Oil and gas extraction is taking place on both private and public lands across the country. Prime and unique agricultural lands need to be protected from these industrial activities if we are to maintain food independence and ensure a healthy food supply. As demonstrated by the map above, agricultural communities in active shale plays may already in trouble. To prevent further damages on day-to-day food staples, it is imperative to increase awareness about this consequential issue.

How can people trust that the food they eat is safe to consume? Families trust farmers, food brands, school and office cafeterias, and restaurants to the extent that the food supply chain is regulated and maintained. If most of the food produced in the U.S. is within active shale plays, and the water/soil is not being tested for oil and gas chemicals, that supply chain is at risk. The secure production of our food – via clean air, water, and soil – is tantamount to lasting food independence.

Farming Testimonials

I am the leader of Slow Food Western Slope, which functions as a chapter of Slow Food USA. We envision a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet: good, clean and fair food for all. Our chapter promotes and supports over 70 farmers, orchardists, ranchers, agricultural businesses and winemakers of the North Fork Valley – all of which depend on good and clean water, air and soil. With its industrial footprint and potential damage to landscape, air, water, soil and human health, extraction industries have no place in the future of the North Fork Valley. We can build a new economy around clean food, outdoor recreation, healthy lifestyle and small nonthreatening businesses.

Jim BrettSlow Food Western Slope

Agricultural land is much more valuable in the long-run than the short-term gains promised from oil and gas extraction… As farmers we are attuned to crop, soil, and water conditions especially as a result of weather. If it’s too hot, too dry, too wet, too cold then there is no food. Natural gas extraction is an undeniable factor in changing climate and is incompatible with the practice of sustainable agriculture.

Mark WaltermireOwner of Thistle Whistle Farm in Hotchkiss, CO

References and More Information

FracTracker Alliance raised awareness of this issue in 2015 when it mapped the proximity of organic farms to oil and gas wells. In that mapping analysis, it was discovered that 11% of organic farms are within ½ mile of oil and gas development. Did you know that less than 1% of agricultural lands in the United States are used to grow crops without chemicals, and that 42% of those organic farms produce food for human consumption?

Organic Farms Near Drilling Activity in the U.S.

View map fullscreen | How FracTracker maps work

This research prompted the question of what about the other 99% of agricultural lands used to grow crops and raise livestock utilizing chemicals and other conventional methods in the United States. The majority of dairy, grains, beef, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and animal feed for livestock are produced on conventional farms. Where are they located, and do we know how they are being impacted by oil and gas development?

The majority of the US population lives in urban centers and is disconnected from the American farm, including how and where food is produced. People trust their farmer, food brands, school and office cafeterias, and restaurants to the extent that they trust their supply chain, and to the extent that the farmers trust their water supply and soils. If the majority of the food produced in the U.S. is within active shale plays, and the water and soil are not being tested for oil and gas chemicals, this research questions how people can trust that their food is safe to consume. If we are to maintain our food independence and health, not only do consumers need to understand that the food supply is at risk in order to exercise their rights to protect it at the local, state, and federal levels, but policymakers need to be informed with this data to make better decisions around oil and gas development regulations and development proposals that impact our foodsheds.

References/Footnotes:

  1. 2015 Colorado Oil and Gas Toxic Release Tracker, Center for Western Priorities
  2. COMPENDIUM OF SCIENTIFIC, MEDICAL, AND MEDIA FINDINGS DEMONSTRATING RISKS AND HARMS OF FRACKING (UNCONVENTIONAL GAS AND OIL EXTRACTION), Fourth Edition, Physicians for Social Responsibility, November 17, 2016; Colborn T, Kwiatkowski C, Schultz K, Bachran M., Natural gas operations from a public health perspective, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 2011 17(5):1039-1056; Fracking Fumes: Air Pollution from Hydraulic Fracturing Threatens Public Health and Communities, NRDC Issue Brief, December 2014
  3. 49 CFR §192
  4. Brady, William J., Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation in the United States: The Laissez-Faire Approach of the Federal Government and Varying State Regulations, Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 14 2012
  5. National Organic Program Standards, 7 CFR Part 205. Organic Foods Production Act, 7 U.S.C. Ch. 94
  6. Molly C. McLaughlin, Thomas Borch,, and Jens Blotevogel, Spills of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals on Agricultural Topsoil: Biodegradation, Sorption, and Co-contaminant Interactions, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016, 50, 6071−6078
  7. AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network, November 2016.
  8. Matthew Heberger and Kristina Donnelly, OIL, FOOD, AND WATER: Challenges and Opportunities for California Agriculture, Pacific Institute, December 2015.
  9. Issues with Alaskan agricultural data include incomplete reporting and large degrees of uncertainty in the data relative to the Lower 48.

By Natasha Léger, Interim Executive Director, Citizens for a Healthy Community and Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Director, FracTracker Alliance

US Pipeline Incidents map

Pipeline Incidents Updated and Analyzed

Pipeline spill in Mayflower, AR on March 29, 2013. Photo by US EPA via Wikipedia.

The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline expansion project has grabbed a lot of headlines, but it is just one of several proposed major pipeline projects in the United States. As much of the discussion revolves around potential impacts of the pipeline system, a review of known incidents is relevant to the discussion.

A year ago, the FracTracker Alliance calculated that there was an average of 1.6 pipeline incidents per day in the United Sates.  That figure remains accurate, with 2,452 recorded incidents between January 1, 2010 and March 3, 2014, a span of 1,522 days.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) classifies the incidents into three categories:

  • Gas transmission and gathering:  Gathering lines take natural gas from the wells to midstream infrastructure.  Transmission lines transport natural gas from the regions in which it is produced to other locations, often thousands of miles away.  Since 2010, there have been 486 incidents on these types of lines, resulting in 10 fatalities, 71 injuries, and $620 million in property damage.
  • Oil and hazardous liquid:  This includes all materials overseen by PHMSA other than natural gas, predominantly crude and refined petroleum products.  Liquified natural gas is included in this category.  There were 1,511 incidents during the reporting period for these pipelines, causing 6 deaths and 15 injuries, and $1.8 billion in property damage.
  • Gas distribution:  These pipelines are used by utilities to get natural gas to consumers.  In just over 40 months, there were 455 incidents, resulting in 42 people getting killed, 183 reported injuries, and $86 million in property damage.

Curiously, while incidents on distribution lines accounted for 72 percent of fatalities and 67 percent of all injuries, the property damage in these cases were only responsible for just over 3 percent of $2.5 billion in total property damage from pipeline spills since 2010.  A reasonable hypothesis accounting for the deaths and injuries is that distribution lines are much more common in densely populated areas than are the other types of pipelines; an incident that might be fatal in an urban area might go unnoticed for days in more remote locations, for example.  However, as the built environment is also much more densely located in urban areas, it does seem surprising that reported property damage isn’t closer to being in line with physical impacts on humans.

How accurate are the data?

In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, governmental agency data suddenly became much more opaque.  In terms of pipelines, public access to the pipeline data that had been mapped to that point was removed.  It was later restored, with limitations.  As it stands now, most pipeline data in the United States, including the link to the pipeline proposal map above, are intentionally generalized to the point where pipelines might not even be rendered in the appropriate township, let alone street.

There are some exceptions, though.  If you would like to know where pipelines are in US waters in the Gulf of Mexcio, for example, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management makes that data not only accessible to view, but available for download on data.gov, a site dedicated to data transparency.  While the PHMSA will not do the same with terrestrial pipelines, the do release location data along with their incident data.


Pipeline incidents from 1/1/2010 through 3/3/2014. To access details, legend, and other map controls, please click the expanding arrows icon in the top-right corner of the map.

This fatal pipeline incident was in Allentown, PA, but was given coordinates in Greenland.

This fatal pipeline incident was in Allentown, PA, but was given coordinates in Greenland.

Unfortunately, we see evidence that the data are not well vetted, at least in terms of location.  One of the most serious incidents in the timeframe, an explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania that killed five people and injured three more, was given coordinates that render in the middle of Greenland.  Another incident leading to fatalities was given location data that put it in Manatoba, well outside of the reach of the US agency that publishes the data.  Still another incident appears to be in the Pacific Ocean, 1,300 miles west-southwest of Mexico.  There are many more examples as well, but the majority of incidents seem to be reasonably well located.

Fuzzy data: are national security concerns justified?

Anyone who watches the news on a regular basis knows that there are people out there who mean others harm. However, a closer look at the incident data shows that pipelines are not a common means of accomplishing such an end.

Causes of pipeline incidents from 1/1/10 to 3/3/14, with counts.

Causes of pipeline incidents from 1/1/10 to 3/3/14, with counts.

For each category showing causation, there are numerous subcategories. While we don’t need to look into all of those here, it is worth pointing out that there is a subcategory of, “other outside force damage” that is designated as, “intentional damage.”  Of the 2,452 total incidents, nine incidents fall into this subcategory.  These subcategories are further broken down, and while there is an option to express that the incident is a result of terrorism, none have been designated that way in this dataset .  Five of the nine incidents are listed as acts of vandalism, however. To be thorough, and because it provides a fascinating insight into work in the field, let’s take a look at the narrative description for each incident that are labeled as intentional in origin:

  • Approximately 2 bbls of crude oil were released when an unknown person(s) removed the threaded pressure warning device on the scraper trap’s closure door. As a result of the absence of the 1/2 inch pressure warning device crude oil was able to flow from the open port upon start up of the pipeline and pressurization of the scraper trap. Once this was discovered the 1/2 inch pressure warning device was properly put back into the scaper trap.
  • Aboveground piping intentionally shot by unknown party. Installed stoppall on line at 176+73 (7 146′) upstream of damaged aboveground piping. Cut and capped pipeline.
  • Friday october 18th at approximately 6:00 p.m. we were notified of a gas line break at Kayenta Mobile Home Park. The Navajo Police responded to an emergency call about vandals in one of the parks alley ways kicking at meters. Upon arrival they found the broke meter riser at the mobile home park and expediently used the emergency shutdown system to remedy the situation. This immediately cut service to 118 customers in the park. [Names removed] responded to the call. we arrived on site at approximately 9:30 p.m. We located the damage and fixed the system at approximately 1:30 a.m. i called the Amerigas emergency call center and informed them that we would be restarting the system the following morning and to tell our customers they would need to be home in order to restore service. We then started the procedure of shutting every valve off to all customers before restarting the system. We started the system back up at 9:30a.m. 10/19/2013. Once the system was up to full pressure and all systems were normal we began putting customers back into service. The completion of re-establishing service to all customers on the system was completed on 10/23/2013.
  • A service tech was called at 1:15 am Sunday morning to respond to the Marlboro Fire Department at an apparent explosion and house fire. The tech arrived and called for additional resources. He then began to check for migrating gas in the surrounding buildings along the service to the house and in the street. no gas readings were detected. The distribution and service on call personnel arrived and began calling in additional company resources to assist in the response effort and controlling the incident. A distribution crew was called in to shut off and cut the service. Additional service techs were called in to assist in checking the surrounding buildings and in the streets at catch basins and manholes around the entire block. Gas supply personnel were called in and dispatched to take odorant samples in the houses directly across from 15 Grant Ct. that had active gas service. Gas survey crews were called in to survey Grant St. and the two parallel streets McEnelly St. and Washington Ct. along with the portion of Washington st. in between these streets. The meter and meter bar assembly were taken by the investigators as evidence. The service was pressure tested to the riser which was witnessed by a representative of the DPI. The service was cut off at the main. After the investigators completed gathering evidence at the scene they gave permission to begin cleaning up the site. There was a tenant home at the time of the explosion who was conscious and walking around when the fire department arrived. He was taken to the hospital and reports are that he sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns on portions of his body.
  • On Friday, September 7, 2012 PSE&G responded to a gas emergency call involving a gas ignition. The initial call came in from the Orange Fire Department at 17:09 as a house fire at 272 Reock Ave Orange; the fire chief stated gas was not involved and the fire was caused by squatters. Subsequent investigation of the incident revealed that the fire was caused when one of the squatters lit a match which ignited leaking gas originating from gas piping removed from the head of an inside meter set. The gas meter inlet valve and associated piping were all removed by an unknown person on an unknown date prior to the fire. An appliance service tech responded and shut the gas off at the curb at 17:40 on September 7 2012. A street crew was dispatched and the gas service to 272 reock ave was cut at the curb at 19:00. Two people (names unknown) squatters were injured one by the fire one was injured jumping out a window to escape the fire. The home in question was vacated by the owner and the injured parties were trespassing on the property at the time of the incident. PSE&G has been unable to confirm any information on the status of their injuries due to patient confidentiality laws.
  • The homeowner tampered with company piping by removing 3/4″ steel end cap with a 3/4″ steel nipple on the tee was removed which caused the gas leak in the basement and resulted in a flash fire. The most likely source of ignition was the water heater. The homeowner died in the incident.
  • A structure fire involved an unoccupied hardware store and a small commercial 12-meter manifold. There were no meters on the manifold and no customers lost service. The heat from the structure fire melted a regulator on the manifold which in turn released gas and contributed to the fire. The cause is officially undetermined; however according to the fire department the cause appears to be arson with the fire starting in the back of the building and not from PG&E facilities. PG&E was notified of this incident by the fire department at 1802 hours. The gas service representative arrived on scene at 1830 hours. The fire department stopped the flow of gas by closing the service valve and the fire was extinguished at approximately 1900 hours. this incident was determined to be reportable due to damages to the building exceeding $50,000. There were no fatalities and no injuries as a result of this incident. Local news media was on-site but no major media was present.
  • A house explosion and fire occurred at approximately 0208 hours on 2/7/10. The fire department called at PG&E at 0213 hours. PG&E personnel arrived at 0245 hours. The fire department had shut off the service valve and removed the meter before PG&E arrived. The house was unoccupied at the time of the explosion. The gas service account was active and the gas service was on (contrary to initial report). The cause of the explosion is undetermined at the time of this report but the fire department has indicated the cause appears to be arson. After the explosion, PG&E performed a leak survey of the service the services on both sides of this address and the gas main in the front of all three of these addresses. No indication of gas was found. PG&E also performed bar hole tests over the service at 3944 17th Avenue and found no indication of gas. The gas service was cut off at the main and will be re-connected when the customer is ready for service.
  • On Monday, January 25, 2010 at approximately 2:30pm a single-family home at 2022 west 63rd Street Cleveland OH (Cuyahoga County) was involved in an explosion/fire. The gas service line was shut-off at approximately 4:30pm. A leak survey of the main lines and service lines on W. 83rd between Madison and Lorain revealed no indications of gas near the structure. A service leak at 2131 West 83rd Street was detected during the leak survey. This service line was replaced upon discovery. On Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 the service line at 2022 W. 83rd was air tested at operating pressure with no pressure loss. An odor test was conducted at 2028 West 83rd Street. The results of this odor test revealed odor levels well within dot compliance levels. Our investigation revealed an odor complaint at this residence on January 18th. Dominion personnel responded to the call and met with the Cleveland Fire Department. Dominion found the meter disconnected and the meter shut-off valve in the half open position. The shut-off valve was closed by the Dominion technician and secured with a locking device. The technician placed a 3/4 inch plug in the open end of the valve. The technician also attempted to close the curb-slop valve but could not. The service line was then bar hole tested utilizing a combustible gas indicator from the street to the structure. As a result, no leakage was discovered. A second attempt to close the curb box valve on January 19th ended when blockage was discovered in the valve box. The valve box was in the process of being scheduled for excevatlon and shut off by a construction crew at the time of the incident. An investigation of the incident site determined the cause to be arson as approximately 6 inches of service line and the meter shut-off valve (with locking device still intact) detached from the service line were recovered inside the structure.

While several of these narratives do make it seem as if the incidents in question were deliberate, these seem to have been caused by people on the ground, not by some GIS-powered remote effort. Seven of the nine incidents were on distribution lines, which tend to occur in populated areas, where contact with gas infrastructure is in fact commonplace, and six out of those seven incidents occurred inside houses or other structures.

On the other hand, there is a real danger in not knowing where pipelines are located. 237 accidents were due to excavation activities, and 86 others were caused by boats, cars, or other vehicles unrelated to excavation activity. Better knowledge of the location of these pipelines could reduce these numbers significantly.