Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) and the transmission of compressed natural gas is the inevitable wave of the future of West Virginia. We cannot afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous potential benefits, however, we must proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment in the drilling and fracking process, pipeline construction, and transmission of the compressed natural gas to distant markets.
In our enthusiasm for this technology which promises to create thousands of jobs while eliminating our dependence on foreign energy sources, the utmost concern must be for the safety of drilling workers, truckers, and pipeline construction employees in the course of the rapid growth of the natural gas industry in West Virginia.
Governor Calls for Safety Guidelines for Pipeline Construction
Last week, West Virginia Governor Tomblin announced in his State of the State address the need for new research to be conducted aimed at keeping our workers safe. Seven natural gas workers died in our state in 2013, and fifteen died in the four years preceding 2013. The numbers are not in yet for 2014. The oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous industries for their workers. Natural gas industry employees work in rugged terrain around fast-moving equipment and conditions that present a myriad of safety challenges.
Pipeline Construction Worker Death Near Moundville, WV
A recent example which again highlights the need for optimum safety for West Virginia workers is the death of a man, a Snelson Pipeline Construction Company employee, on Sunday, January 10, 2015. The fatal accident occurred just off
Route 2 and Long Run Road in Marshall County near Moundsville, WV. Details have not yet been released, and an investigation is ongoing.
Though no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one, the family of the pipeline worker can file a death claim with Workers Compensation. If it can also be proved that the worker was negligently placed in harm's way by his employer, an additional wrongful death suit may be filed. A suit against a third party may also be filed if equipment used by this worker proves to be faulty or defective.
Proposed Future Natural Gas Pipeline Projects in West Virginia
As the natural gas industry continues to develop throughout West Virginia, several pipeline projects are expected to be constructed within the next three years.
- The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a proposed 550-mile pipeline would originate in Harrison County, West Virginia and run through Virginia to eastern North Carolina.
- The Mountain Valley Pipeline, would span about 300 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia to a Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (Transco) compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
- The Supply Header Project, proposed by Dominion Transmission Inc., would include about 39 miles of new natural gas pipeline and modify existing compression facilities in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The project would provide natural gas from supply areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to markets in Virginia and North Carolina.
- The Rover Pipeline Project, would enable 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day through 820 miles of pipeline. The project would move natural gas from processing plants and interconnections in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to points of interconnection with Energy Transfers existing Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. infrastructure, in addition to other Midwest pipeline interconnects in Ohio. Rover also anticipates to construct a segment of pipeline from Defiance, Ohio through Michigan to the Union Gas hub in Canada.
- The Leach XPress, proposed by Columbia Pipeline Group, would involve construction of about 160 miles of natural gas pipeline and compression facilities in Ohio and West Virginia's northern panhandle.
- The Appalachian Connector pipeline project would connect Western Marcellus and Utica natural gas supply areas in northern West Virginia with Williams' existing Transco natural gas pipeline, which stretches about 850 miles in Virginia.
As a personal injury attorney with over twenty years of experience aiding families who have lost husbands, fathers, and providers through industrial accidents, I applaud the Governor's concern to make this exponential growth in the natural gas industry as safe as possible for our West Virginia workers. Let's do it safely for the employees and with care to our neighbors.
The Charleston Gazette, "Tomblin calls for study of increased deaths from gas-drilling boom" By Ken Ward Jr., January 14, 2015.
WTOV 9 News: One Dead in Moundsville Industrial Accident, January 11, 2015
WOWK TV: Natural gas industry takes preliminary steps toward pipelines, Sarah Tincher, January 14, 2015.