Terrain the Enemy Of Pipelines in W.Va.

State regulators acted quickly to investigate a natural gas pipeline explosion earlier this month in Marshall County. It appears they reached the appropriate conclusion, that pipeline owner Williams Energy should not be cited for environmental damage.

As the Department of Environmental Protection pointed out, the April 5 explosion and fire near Moundsville did not contaminate groundwater or other water sources at or near the site.

An investigation of the incident, in which about two acres of trees were scorched and a few homes were evacuated as a precaution, is continuing. Initial indications are the pipeline ruptured at a weld point, possibly because of pressure from the steep slope in which the line was buried.

As we have pointed out, here in the Mountain State it is impossible to lay most pipelines without exposing them to potential damage from shifting ground on slopes. That has not excused some companies from being penalized for ruptured lines, however, when state officials find contamination occurred and/or negligence was involved.

That is as it should be. When, despite the best efforts of companies and their workers, Mother Nature causes problems, harsh penalties are not merited. Stiff fines should be reserved – and used without delay – for situations in which human error and/or cutting corners are to blame.