Natural Gas Responders Locating in PA

Specialized Natural Gas Emergency Responders Locating in PA, Improving Response Times

Recent Industry Accidents Underscore Need for Quicker Response, Severance Tax to Offset Additional Costs to Taxpayers, Communities.

HARRISBURG — Recent high-profile accidents at natural gas wells in Pennsylvania have prompted the Department of Environmental Protection to arrange emergency response services with a leading company that is opening a new operation in the state, DEP Secretary John Hanger announced today.

CUDD Well Control will locate a new facility in Canton Township, Bradford County, which means a highly specialized, well-equipped emergency response crew will be approximately five hours from any natural gas well in Pennsylvania.

By comparison, it took 16 hours for out-of-state crews to address a June 3 blowout in Clearfield County and 11 hours to extinguish a July 23 fire in Allegheny County. In both cases, well operators had to wait for response crews to fly in from Texas.

“CUDD Well Control’s presence in our state will ensure fast and expert response to emergency situations at well sites,” said Hanger. “Recent accidents in our state have shown that the natural gas industry lacks the training and equipment to respond quickly to accidents. This creates a tremendous danger to the public and the environment.

“When an accident occurs, we cannot wait 10 or more hours for a crew to fly in from halfway across the country. Pennsylvanians must be confident that highly trained emergency services are available nearby to respond to a gas well emergency as quickly possible.”

The director of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Agency, Robert P. French, echoed Hanger’s comments, saying CUDD’s decision to locate in Pennsylvania brings much-needed expertise to the state.

“Our priorities during a well emergency are the safety and security of the first responders and the public, as well as the environment and property,” said French.  “In certain well incidents, specialized equipment and technical advice is needed and this arrangement with CUDD Well Control will certainly enhance our ability to mitigate an incident in Pennsylvania.”

CUDD’s new operation will give Pennsylvania 16 specially trained well-control responders and a senior well-control responder in the state at all times. Senior responders can provide an initial assessment of emergency situations, advise local first responders, and coordinate emergency response measures with other well control specialists.

Equipment at CUDD’s new Bradford County facility also will include:
• A 2,000-gallon-per-minute pump;
• Heat shields, which will protect responders as they work near a well fire;
• Pneumatic cutting devices that clamp onto damaged pipe to allow responders to cut it at a safe distance; and
• A “hot tap,” which will drill a hole into damaged pipe to either relieve the pressure or allow responders to pump material into the well to kill it.

The commonwealth will employ CUDD’s services as needed through emergency contracts on a case-by-case basis, meaning there is no cost to taxpayers until CUDD personnel are mobilized. If that happens, the state will work aggressively to recoup those costs from the well operator.

DEP plans to enter into a formal contract with a well control specialty company through a competitive bid process by Oct. 15.

Hanger noted that emergencies at natural gas wells pose a considerable challenge and cost to local emergency response crews, but said that enacting a severance tax can offset those additional expenses.

“Local fire and police departments are usually the first ones on the scene when the worst happens. These emergency responders are our first line of defense in a community and natural gas wells are creating new burdens and costs for them,” said Hanger.

“When accidents happen, the natural gas industry should be bearing those costs, not the public or our fire, EMT and police departments. That’s one of the main reasons we need a severance tax: so taxpayers aren’t shouldering this financial burden and emergency response crews have the funds they need to respond appropriately, as well as get proper training and equipment.”

While finalizing the 2010-11 state budget, lawmakers agreed to vote on a severance tax by Oct. 1 with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2011.



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