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Coalition calling for pipeline scrutiny

Residents and members of some environmental groups near the path of the Falcon Pipeline are asking federal regulators for more answers and for more scrutiny of the Shell Pipeline project.

The pipeline consists of two segments that both end at Shell’s facility in Monaca. One segment goes from the MarkWest facility in Cadiz, up to a facility in Scio and then through northern parts of Harrison and Jefferson counties. The pipeline crosses beneath the Ohio River and over to northern Hancock County before reaching its final destination.

The second line goes from MarkWest’s Houston Plant in Washington County, Pa., and due north to Monaca.

During Tuesday’s Zoom conference meeting, officials with the People Over Petro Coalition requested the federal agency in charge of oversight hold a public hearing to answer the group’s questions and to reconsider the permits already in place.

Various members pointed out that in 2019, a whistleblower claimed there were defects in the pipeline construction and records were altered.

The federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had addressed the issue and reported some findings but could not substantiate the whistleblower’s main claims.

However, a more transparent and independent assessment should be carried out, according to coalition members.

“As residents, we need to be protected,” Heaven Sensky, a community organizer with the Center for Coalfield Justice who serves Washington and Greene counties in Southwestern Pa., said during the meeting. “We deserve to know that our government at all levels is working to keep us safe after they permitted this pipeline to come into our region.”

Sensky went on to add that, “We need to know that Shell’s money and political influence won’t let them off the hook if they did something that puts us all in jeopardy. We need to know that the information they’re submitting is independently verified.”

Others participating in the meeting included Tucker Harris, an Ohio landowner who said the pipeline runs 1,000 feet from his house. During a drilling operation, Harris said crews “blew out the end” of the pipeline.

“Shortly thereafter, when we knew this was going on, I started getting a gray sludge in my well water,” Harris said. “I have water filters and we do have a well. I’ve actually saved my water filters and you pull the filters, it’s like a grey slime, which is what they actually use on the directional bores.”

Harris said his “entire family has worked” in the oil and gas industry, including fracking, for more than 10 years. He said he knows “it can be done safely” but questions the pipeline running near his home.

Other speakers included representatives from various environmental councils and leagues who have joined forces in the coalition requesting answers from the PHMSA. They cited additional information released Tuesday from regulatory officials as another reason behind the request.

“We need to know that the operation of the pipeline is consistent with new rules and regulations that we’re learning from past disasters,” Sensky said. “We need to know that when people speak up and speak out, that they won’t face retaliation for doing what’s right.

“We’re asking PHMSA to hold their own townhall, where they provide information about the ongoing investigation against Shell, where they answer the concerns raised here today, and where they commit to taking action against Shell to make sure that we’re safe.”

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