The question I get most often is: How far the setback should be? Like everything else, there are no studies upon which to base an informed opinion so it’s anybody’s best guess.
Maybe this will help a little bit with answering that question.
Critics fume over lack of natural gas pipeline oversight
This article talks about some of the (large) pipeline accidents. It’s not a comprehensive list, but the articles says:
According to PHMSA records, there were 265 “significant incidents” in the U.S. pipeline system last year, resulting in 14 deaths, 63 injuries and more than $152 million in property damage. Incidents involving natural gas resulted in 10 deaths and 59 injuries — most commonly caused by equipment failure and corrosion.
Here’s what they say about setbacks:
Moreover, there are no federal laws or regulations to ensure that houses and commercial buildings are constructed a safe distance away from pipelines. This lack of a so-called “setback” regulation raises particular concerns when it comes to natural gas pipelines, which, if broken, can burst into flames causing huge fireballs.
“There aren’t any regulations at all about setbacks. You can build a house right next to a pipeline,” Weimer says. The only rule regarding setbacks is that a landowner cannot build on the right of way easement used to build the pipeline, Julia Piscitelli, a PHMSA spokesperson says. “Generally, pipeline burial locations are determined by local, county and state ordinances,” she said.
Many easements are only 50 feet wide. That’s not enough to ensure safety, Weimer says. For example, a 30-inch pipeline operating at 1,000 pounds per square inch of pressure — a common pipe — would have an “impact radius” of about 660 feet on each side of the pipeline, according to an Oct. 2000 report by the Gas Research Institute.
That deals with pipelines. What about gas wells?
Within one year, I have personally witnessed 2 gas wells that exploded.
Gas Well Tank Battery Struck by Lightning in Wise County
Lightning Strikes Gas Well Causing Explosion and Fire
Palo Pinto had a minor little gas well explosion a few years back:
The sound from the blast shook residents for miles around an area, and the flash was visible for 100 miles, Palo Pinto County sheriff’s dispatcher Linda Ezell told Associated Press Radio.
The blast formed a large crater and ignited secondary fires for a mile around, but just one worker at a nearby drilling rig was slightly injured, Sheriff Ira Mercer told Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA.
Who really knows what the setback should be? I don’t think 1000′ is nearly enough.
Oh! And when they threaten to sue you for the setback, know this: Tiny little DISH established some of the toughest drilling ordinances in the Barnett Shale including a 1000′ setback. After much blustering, industry was able to drill several wells following the ordinances to the letter with no variances.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
- Web |
- More Posts(5117)
Don Young says
In 2005, FWCanDo proposed 3,000 feet as an arbitrary, but reasonably safe setback. This was based on anecdotal reports from firefighters. After the Palo Pinto explosion in January 2006, I began to think that 1 mile might be more reasonable.
However, the FW Asst. attorney noted at the first Gas Drilling Task Force meeting that 3,000 feet would preclude nearly all gas drilling in Fort Worth. To which I replied, "Exactly."
The industry-heavy Task Force outvoted that crazy idea out of hand. They went on to specify a 300 foot setback that was increased to 600 foot only after the Forest Hill blowout a few moths later that killed a man.
But the city council has allowed exemptions to that distance in over a dozen waiver requests since then. So much for a people-friendly ordinance.
There is only one answer: ditch the fossil fuels.
There are NO set back distances in unincorporated Texas. There were up to 5 proposed wells 50', yes 50 feet from my back property line, approximately 250' from my house, and only 200' from my next door neighbor. If Palo Pinto had happened here, 1/2 of my neighborhood would have been at the bottom of the crater. Supposedly Carrizo is moving their drilling off site from the pool, not as close, but still too close to homes.
The setback for unincorporated areas is 200' from the center of a dwelling.
Mike H. says
The campers here were about 675 feet from a 30 inch gas pipeline running around 675 psi:
A 36 inch gas line at 970 psi really trashed this apartment complex:
Good luck getting the details of gas production facilities. You probably won't find out about pressures & sizes of the lines there.
The old timy setback number of say 200 ft. is based on what I call the West Texas pumper which had NO surface pressure. If you dozed it over, nothing would spew out of the ground. Such is not the case for high pressure gas wells which can effect a distance much greater than the 200 ft. I agree with Don Young's 3000 ft number for gas wells.