Benton, PA On Tuesday, June 9th 2015 at approximately 9:30 p.m. the Williams Transco pipeline running along the Lycoming/Columbia County line ruptured, releasing gas into the air, according to a phone call with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Nearby residents experienced confusion and fear upon feeling the impact of the explosion from miles away, hearing a prolonged roar sounding similar to a jet engine, and smelling gas in the air. After calling emergency services and neighbors, many residents were told that it would be safest to evacuate the area until the problem was resolved. Williams is the same company proposing to build a 178-mile, 42” high pressure natural gas line called the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline through Pennsylvania, which would cut through the Benton area.
“I am a resident of Jackson Township and I live near the village of Waller with my infant son, husband, and many pets. The rupture Tuesday night shook our house from a couple miles away,” said Alysha Suley of Waller, PA. “Factual information regarding the rupture has not yet been widely disseminated, but I have learned that the explosion and roaring sounds involved the Williams Transco pipeline.” Other nearby residents reported the smell of gas in the air from up to 5 miles away, and could also hear the roaring sound.
Tuesday night’s pipeline rupture highlighted the safety concerns of many local residents. This rupture happened just one day after concerned residents of the Benton area came together for the first time to discuss the impacts of even more pipeline development, and how to resist Williams’ proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.
The Benton meeting and the pipeline rupture happened amidst a flurry of anti-pipeline activity in Columbia County, and Pennsylvania as a whole. All ten counties that would be impacted by the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline have seen active resistance to this project. Safety in the event of explosions is the main concern of many.
“Tuesday night was terrifying because of all the ‘what ifs’ it brought up. The rupture was caused by a pipeline built and operated by the same company as the proposed Atlantic Sunrise. What if a larger pipeline, or one nearer to our home, had failed?” Suley expressed of her safety concerning nearby existing and proposed gas infrastructure.
Residents of Columbia County have been organizing at the township and county level since last April when the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline was announced. The next meeting of concerned residents of the county will be hosted by the Shalefield Organizing Committee and the Clean Air Council on Tuesday, June 16th at 6:00 p.m. at the Pro Shop Café at the Links Golf Course in Hemlock Township. An attorney will be present to discuss his legal concerns with the leases Williams is offering landowners along the potential right of way of the ASP. For that reason, if you are a concerned resident facing a gas lease, you are urged to attend and ask questions.
This meeting will continue to bring residents into a year-long, active movement to prevent dangerous shale gas infrastructure from continuing to be built in our region. All concerned residents and the local press are invited and encouraged to attend. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-204-8927 for more information on the local movement to stop the proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline.