» Thousands of Miles of Leaking Gas Pipelines Could Result in More Explosions

Thousands of Miles of Leaking Gas Pipelines Could Result in More Explosions

Washington, D.C. (Law Firm Newswire) May 28, 2013 - Over 3,000 miles of aging, leaking iron gas pipelines create a safety hazard in Michigan.

A recent report in the Detroit Free Press detailed the dangers of leaking wrought- and cast-iron natural gas mains throughout Michigan and the slow progress the state's two largest utilities have made in replacing them.

“These old gas mains need to be replaced, and soon,” said Washington D.C. personal injury attorney David Lietz, who specializes in pipeline accidents. “Every year they remain in the ground increases the likelihood of another terrible accident.”

According to the report, just four states have more iron pipelines – the type considered most at risk – than Michigan. Consumers Energy and DTE Gas have replaced less than 15 percent of their iron pipelines in the past ten years. Together, the two companies deliver natural gas to 88 percent of Michigan businesses and homes.

Many of the pipelines are already leaking. A report by the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) said that in 2008, DTE averaged 23.8 leaks per 100 miles of gas main. Consumers Energy fared far better in that report at 2.3 leaks per 100 miles.

The safety hazard presented by aging gas pipelines has been known for decades. The National Transportation Safety Board in 1973 advocated the replacement of all cast-iron pipelines.

The PSC in 2010 ordered DTE to develop a plan to replace its iron gas mains. Commissioners approved a plan that called for replacing just 30 miles of pipeline each year for 10 years, totaling 300 miles. That is less than 10 percent of the nearly 4,000 miles of DTE-owned at-risk pipeline – mostly cast-iron, but also lines made of bare steel without protective coatings.

Consumers Energy has 626 miles of iron pipeline after replacing 21 percent of those mains since 2004. But that utility has faced criticism of its own for a declining rate of replacement in recent years.

“The deadly natural gas explosions in Allentown and San Bruno illustrate the imminent danger presented by our aging infrastructure,” Lietz added.

In February, 2011, a crack in a cast-iron gas main in Allentown, Pa., caused an explosion that killed five people and destroyed dozens of homes. Investigators discovered that a replacement of the pipeline had been ordered in 1979, but was never completed. In September, 2010, an improperly-installed pipeline section in San Bruno, Calif., exploded, killing eight.

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