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UNITED STATES SETTLES CASE WITH NATURAL GAS PIPELINE COMPANY

Release Date: 02/01/2002
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UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DOJ (202) 514-2007
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2002 EPA (202) 564-7818
www.usdoj.gov
www.epa.gov


UNITED STATES SETTLES CASE WITH NATURAL GAS PIPELINE COMPANY

Transco to Conduct Environmental Tests and Cleanup
Along Its 10,500 Mile Pipeline Crossing 12 States


Washington, D.C. -- The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced a settlement with Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corporation (Transco), under which the company has agreed to test for and clean up soil and groundwater contamination related to waste disposal at numerous compressor stations along its natural gas pipeline, which traverses 12 states from Texas to New York. In addition, the company will clean up polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination, complete a storm water monitoring program, conduct storm water sampling at several compressor stations and pay a $1.4 million civil penalty.

Today’s settlement resolves claims for Transco’s violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) related to the company’s ownership and operation of a natural gas pipeline.

“This settlement will result in consistent, high quality cleanups along the length of the pipeline,” said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Transco’s willingness to work with EPA and its agreement to perform the necessary cleanup proved beneficial to all parties and the environment.”

“This settlement resolves Transco’s past illegal disposal practices and commits the company to a comprehensive testing and cleanup program that will protect public health and the environment,” said Sylvia Lowrance, EPA’s Acting Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Along its 10,500-mile natural gas transmission pipeline system, Transco has 53 compressor stations, which it uses to drive natural gas through the pipeline. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texas-based Williams Corp, which is the largest volume-transporter of natural gas in the United States. It also uses numerous metering stations along the pipeline to measure the flow of gas at various interchanges and sales points.

In the transmission of natural gas through its pipeline, Transco generates wastes known as natural gas pipeline condensate. Natural gas condensate contains a complex mixture of hydrocarbons, including benzene, which is a known carcinogen. From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, Transco disposed of pipeline condensate and other materials in unlined earthen pits and debris areas at its compressor stations. Often the wastes in the pits were burned. In addition, PCB contamination was found at a number of Transco’s compressor stations, generally resulting from historic use of PCB-containing lubricants. PCBs are classified as probable human carcinogens. At some compressor stations, PCB contamination extended beyond the company’s property line onto adjacent property. Finally, Transco historically discharged commingled storm and process waters from its compressor stations without a permit.

The contamination at Transco’s metering stations arose from past use of mercury in the meters. Historic mercury disposal practices contaminated soils near the surface at the metering stations with elevated levels of mercury. While these practices had ceased by 1989, contaminated soils remained at the metering stations.

As part of its investigation of the Transco pipeline, EPA learned that the company had already performed some cleanup at many sites, while in other locations additional work remained to be completed. Under the settlement, Transco will complete remaining cleanup work related to hazardous wastes released at 26 of its compressor stations. In addition, Transco will complete remaining PCB cleanup work at one compressor station. No additional cleanup at metering stations is required by the settlement, because Transco has completed cleanups at all metering stations except stations in New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana, where cleanup under state environmental agency supervision is ongoing and will be completed under state supervision.

The Transco settlement is part of a long history of EPA enforcement activities in the natural gas industry related to PCBs and hazardous wastes. Past enforcements were brought against Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline Company; Transwestern Gas Pipeline Company; Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company; and Columbia Gas Pipeline Corporation. These settlements also addressed PCB and hazardous waste cleanups along natural gas pipelines.

Today’s settlement will be filed with the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.


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