Energy Transfer Charged with Environmental Crimes Over Pipeline Explosion

Energy Transfer faces criminal charges filed by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office for violating environmental laws while building the Revolution Pipeline that contributed to an explosion in Beaver County in 2018.


Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently announced that his office was filing nine counts of environmental crimes against the company at the recommendation of a statewide grand jury.


“The Grand Jurors heard testimony and examined records that showed that the explosion happened because of Energy Transfer’s negligence as they built the Revolution pipeline,” said Shapiro in a press release announcing the charges.


The Revolution Pipeline is a 42.5-mile pipeline that starts in Butler County and travels through Beaver and Allegheny counties, connecting to a gas processing plant in Washington County. An explosion occurred in September 2018 when a landslide resulted in a section of the pipeline separating, allowing methane to escape. The gas ignited, destroying a home, burning several acres, collapsing six high-voltage electric transmission powers and displacing residents in Beaver County. There were no injuries. The pipeline had been put into service just days earlier.


The grand jury found that Energy Transfer “repeatedly ignored environmental protocols and custom plans that were created to minimize erosion and the possibility of a landslide at the site, which they were restored to its pre-construction appearance. The site was located on a steep hillside above Raccoon Creek that flows directly into the Ohio River.” While inspectors visited the site frequently noted violations, they “carried few consequences for the contractors.”


A lack of erosion controls led to an initial landslide at the site, but no additional controls were added. A second landslide at the same site caused the explosion.

“An overall theme of inadequate control devices along with slip and slide issues along the right-of-way emerged,” during the grand jury’s investigation, its report notes. Some of those slides sent debris and sediment into Raccoon Creek and its tributaries, in violation of state law.


The company was charged with two counts of prohibition of discharge of industrial waste; two counts of prohibition against other pollutions; two counts of potential pollution; and three counts of unlawful conduct.


The Revolution pipeline, which is again carrying gas, has already been the subject of a $30.6 million civil penalty and a $2 million settlement. Energy Transfer also faces 48 environmental charges filed by the attorney general’s office last year over its construction of the Mariner East pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania.


In an emailed statement, Energy Transfer spokeswoman Alexis Daniel said, “This comes as no surprise to us, as these are not new or additional claims. We have been aware of these for some time and have been involved in discussions regarding these issues with the attorney general’s office. We will continue to work with them and look forward to getting these issues resolved.”


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