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University report examines dangers of natural gas pipelines


With federal authorities poised to approve a natural gas pipeline to run through densely populated parts of Medina and 10 Ohio counties, a recently released analysis details the dangers of the process.

The report comes from The FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit founded in 2010 at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health.

Its report released Nov. 23 says that since 2010, there have been 4,215 pipeline incidents resulting in 100 reported fatalities, 470 injuries and property damage exceeding $3.4 billion. Four of the fatalities and four injuries are shown on information mapped for Ohio in the report.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, on Nov. 30 released a final environmental impact statement on the NEXUS Gas Transmission project that is to originate in Columbiana County and travel through Medina County and into Michigan and a hub in Canada.

FERC recommended the pipeline route as originally proposed when the $2 billion project was first unveiled in 2014.

The impact statement concluded that environmental hurdles to building the pipeline through Northeast Ohio can be adequately “mitigated.”

One final step remains in the approval process with the three-member FERC board giving its OK. NEXUS has said its goal is to begin construction in the first three months of 2017.

A rally featuring leaders of the citizens group Sustainable Medina County is scheduled at 1 p.m. today on Public Square in Medina with speakers discussing opposition to construction.

NEXUS’ safety report

Asked for comment about the FracTracker report Friday, NEXUS spokesman Adam Parker referred The Gazette to a website with safety record information compiled by its parent company, Houston-based Spectra Energy.

The website says Spectra’s five-year “incident rate” for 2011-15 per 1,000 miles per year is 0.15 incidents compared with 0.36 for all natural gas pipelines in the U.S. based on data compiled from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Spectra notes that the DOT unit makes pipeline inspections “routinely.”

Spectra said that between 2011 and 2015, its natural gas pipelines have received 26 enforcement actions, including 10 notices of “probable violations,” with five “compliance orders.”

The company said its enforcement action total “is about 2.5 percent” of the overall industry number cited by the DOT agency.

The Spectra information is available here.

Government data cited

FracTracker said it analyzed data collected by the federal PHMSA.

FracTracker found that pipeline incidents occurred at a daily rate of 1.6 nationwide over a seven-year period starting in 2010.

However, the report showed incidents were a bit less frequent in 2016 through Nov. 4, coming in at a rate of about 1.45 per day.

Property damage from such incidents has decreased over time — from a high of about $1.63 billion in 2010 to a little more than $125 million in 2016.

However, injury numbers (including fatalities) have remained in double digits or higher for most years since 2010.

FracTracker also detailed pipeline incidents resulting in injury and property damage by their cause from Jan. 1, 2010, through Nov. 4, 2016.

It found that the largest portion (34 percent) of the 4,215 incidents documented were the result of equipment failure. That number was followed by 752 occurrences resulting from corrosion failure, 445 from incorrect operation and 406 from excavation damage.

The full study is available at the FracTracker Alliance’s web site,

Pennsylvania sparked concerns

The FracTracker Alliance members started the group in reaction to concerns about hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.

The natural gas-rich geological formation extends from southern New York and to eastern Ohio and encompasses most of West Virginia.

FracTracker receives funding from philanthropic organizations focused on environmental safety and other community concerns, including:

  • the Heinz Endowments
  • the William Penn Foundation in Pennsylvania
  • the Cleveland-based George Gund Foundation

Contact reporter Marina Malenic at (330) 721-4063 or

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