U.S. receives report into Adair County pipeline blast

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – U.S. regulators have lifted restrictions on a natural gas pipeline that ruptured last winter in Adair County, Ky., setting off a blast that destroyed nearby homes.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered Columbia Gulf Transmission to lower the pressure on the line shortly after it broke on Feb. 13, 2014 and take other steps as part of a rare corrective action order.

In all, six such orders were issued nationwide last year.

But regulators determined last month that Columbia Gulf, an affiliate of Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group, had met the terms of the order and closed the case.

A spokesman said the agency hasn't decided if it will take any “additional enforcement actions” for the incident, which occurred in a section of line that runs between Clementsville, Ky., and Hartsville, Tenn. Columbia Gulf operates approximately 1,390 miles of gas line in Kentucky.

No one was injured when the pipeline broke, causing $1.8 million in damages.

“More than 90 percent of claims have been settled, and we continue working with the remaining claims to reach a resolution,” Columbia Pipeline spokesman Scott Castleman said in an email.

An analysis found that the line had pre-existing cracks at the site of the break near the small town of Knifley, but there was no evidence they grew over time. A consultant concluded the cracks occurred when hydrogen got stuck in a weld when the pipeline was installed in the mid-1960s.

The cracks and the movement of earth contributed to the rupture, the analysis by Det Norske Veritas determined.

A report sent to regulators last summer showed the line had failed eight times before, with the most recent occurring in Estill County in 2012.

The Adair County episode was one of 11 pipeline incidents involving a release of gas or liquid in Kentucky last year, tied for the most in any one year since 1995, according to data from the federal pipeline agency.

In all, pipeline leaks, failures and other incidents caused $8.7 million in property damage in 2014. It was the costliest year since 2005.

A bill creating a statewide pipeline safety fund and increasing oversight of large interstate transmission lines, such as the Columbia Gulf pipe, failed to advance in the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, has said he plans to re-introduce the bill next year.

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