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Compressor station explosion, fire, health concerns; Action Alert

March 30, 2012

Even when they are not exploding and burning, as the Lathrop compressor station did yesterday, compressor stations are a major health hazard and they are multiplying rapidly in Pennsylvania. Here’s more news, with photo and video, of yesterday’s fire, and an invitation to go the extra mile to protect those now in harm’s way in shale country, PA.

From Frank Finan's 32 photos of Lathrop compressor station fire

"Enough is Enough": Frank Finan's photo of the Lathrop Compressor station still smoking after the March 29th explosion and fire in Susquehanna County

Yesterday at 6:15 pm Williams, the company responsible for the explosion, fire, and uncontrolled release of gas at Lathrop compressor station earlier in the day, issued a press release reassuring their investors. While being careful not to use the word “explosion” — despite residents who reported hearing a loud “boom” and residents who reported that their houses shook — the press release said, “management of Williams Partners and Williams expect the financial impact of the fire to be immaterial to their financial condition…”

Pennsylvania residents, emergency responders, and grassroots documentarians on the scene at the burning Lathrop Compressor Station in Susquehanna County were less cheerful. “I’m still shaking inside,” reported one resident. Susquehanna County residents have been concerned about the Lathrop compressor station even before yesterday’s explosion and fire. “That’s a really stinky compressor station,” said Frank Finan, an area resident. “When I drive by, I smell it. I worry about the people nearby living with those odors and that noise.”

Noxious substances emitted by compressor stations in Pennsylvania, as measured by the PA DEP in June 2010 at a compressor station in Greene County which has been making nearby resident Pam Judy sick, include:  benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, hexane, heptane, acetone, acrolein, propene, carbon tetrachloride, chloromethane and others. Most of these are known carcinogens and exposure to them creates the type of symptoms (severe headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, and other symptoms) Pam and her family have been experiencing.

Here is a video of the smoke, with flames still visible at times, taken by Susquehanna County resident Vera Scroggins yesterday at the Lathrop compressor station. You can hear Vera exclaiming, “Whoa, look at the smoke from that compressor station… it’s burning up!”

“Enough is enough,” Frank Finan’s title for his photos, sums up local residents concerns pretty well. Here is an Action Alert, along with news about the Commonwealth Pipeline, which Protecting Our Waters opposes to protect our land, air, water, climate, and health.

Attend Compressor Station Hearings: one 8-engine compressor station; four two-engine compressor stations 

Please HOLD THESE DATES and sign up now if you can go in person to testify at hearings about Pennsylvania compressor stations planned for Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties, respectively: April 11th, 6 pm and April 17th, 6 pm. Protecting Our Waters does not have a carpool coordinator yet for these hearings; if you can help, please say so in the comment section and folks can contact you directly! For more information, please contact Matt Walker at Clean Air Council, 215-567-4004 ext. 121

There are two public meetings and hearings coming up in northeastern Pennsylvania in mid-April:

1). What: Chief Gathering Compressor Station in Wyoming County (8 engines):

When: April 11, 2012 at 6:00 p.m

Where: Tunkhannock Area Middle School located at 135 Tiger Drive, Tunkhannock, PA 18657

2). What: Laser Gathering’s proposed FOUR compressor stations (each with 2 engines for now) in Susquehanna County:

When: April 17, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

Where: Montrose Area Jr. / Sr. High Scholl located at 75 Meteor Way, Montrose, PA 18801.

The DEP is requesting that people sign up ahead of time, although they state that if there is time after pre-registered speakers, then they will allow people who aren’t pre-registered to speak. Clean Air Council will help develop an online sign-up tool to sign up for both hearings. Contact Matt Walker (contact info. above) for more info.

Meanwhile, written request to speak can also be sent to Mark Wejkszner, Air Quality Program Manager, Department of Environmental Protection, Air Quality Program, Wilkes-Barre Regional Office, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701-1915

Commonwealth Pipeline in the News

The Commonwealth Pipeline, which would bring Marcellus gas to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington if approved, has not yet applied for crucial permits and is in the early stages of gathering funds and determining its route. The pipeline would use eminent domain to bulldoze past objections of landowners along its route. Even while 200,000 trees are being cut for the MARC 1 pipeline, Don Gilliland summed up some of the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth pipeline at this early stage in the Patriot News today.

  1. March 30, 2012 3:41 pm

    This is what Clean Air Council’s Executive Director, Joseph O. Minott, said about this incident:

    “The explosion at the Lathrop Compressor Station is one of a series of recent incidents highlighting the dangers of fast-tracked permitting of the nascent Marcellus Shale industry. The Clean Air Council hopes that this explosion prompts PA DEP and the US EPA to investigate the long-term safety and health impacts of placing industrial facilities in people’s backyards.”

    People interested in following up on this can call for a complete investigation on this incident, including whether the explosion constitutes a violation of the air quality permit. People can ask for a halt to operating Lathrop until it is deemed safe, as well as a closer review of other compressor stations that use similar equipment. They could also ask the Northeast Regional Office of DEP for a listening session with residents to discuss these and other types of impacts. The phone number is 570-826-2511. (Rebecca Roter has asked this several times with no response. She is passing an e-mail around looking for people to sign-on as well).
    On a related note, we’re also encouraging residents to report ANYTHING that they smell, hear or see that is out of the ordinary. Odors, visible emissions or noises may be the only indication of serious environmental violations. The DEP has the authority to take remedial action through investigations and issuing notices of violation. We encourage people to use our online survey form to report these disturbances and to make a phone call directly to DEP (1-866-255-5158). Clean Air Council will be collecting this data and sending it to other agencies so they can have a record and know the depth of what residents are experiencing.

    Matt Walker
    Clean Air Council
    Community Outreach Coordinator
    Marcellus Shale Program
    215-567-4004 ext. 121
    Facebook: Clean Air Council
    Twitter: @cleanaircouncil

  2. April 5, 2012 10:45 am

    As introduction, Pipeline Safety Coalition (PSC) formed a year ago – our website is pathetically under construction, but that’s because we are busy helping citizens learn about the pipeline part of Marcellus Shale so that we are all proactive and better able to protect our individual and environmental communities.

    As update on the Compressor @ Lathrop, a citizen wrote to PUC Jennifer Kocher, noting the Lathrop Compressor Station is part of a natural gas gathering system and as such is under the jurisdiction of the PUC by Act 127. He also noted that a duty of the PUC is to “investigate the existence or report of a safety-related condition that involves a pipeline transportation facility” and requested: 1) copy of any issued statement from PUC regarding the incident, 2) asked if PUC had commenced an investigation and 3) if not when one was intended to commence. He was told:

    “the Commission has not made a determination whether the specific pipeline facilities involved are subject to federal pipeline safely laws and therefore within the
    jurisdiction of the Commission under Act 127.”

    The direct answer is that Lathrop is a gathering compressor station in a Class 1 area. Under Act 13, Class 1 gathering lines are not under the jurisdiction of PUC. PUC is confirming that they have no jurisdiction, but by law, this compressor station will most likely be considered non jurisdictional…Williams will decide what’s best for the people and the environment.

    PSC is here to help when and where we can. Contact me, Lynda Farrell, @


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