AGL pipeline explosion settlement deferred again by GA-PSC for state-wide safety: needs to add LNG 2019-09-19

For more time to examine where gas detectors are needed throughout the state, GA-PSC has again deferred voting on the AGL settlement. As Commissioner Jason Shaw said at the first deferral Tuesday, they want to “make sure that all across the state we can make sure that this type of equipment…” is available.

Plus GA-PSC should take a hard look at AGL subsidiary Pivotal LNG’s Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) liquefaction facilities and truck and train routes from them to Jacksonville, Florida, especially since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has shirked its oversight duties for inland LNG facilities.

AGL pipeline map, Georgia
Georgia, AGL Pipeline Map, in Homerville, GA pipeline explosion, by John S. Quarterman, 17 August 2018

AGL has pipelines all over the state of Georgia. I don’t know any reason to believe any of them are any safer than the one that goes from my property in Lowndes County to Homerville in Clinch County (and to Moody Air Force Base, to parts of Valdosta, to Ray City in Berrien County, and to Lakeland in Lanier County).

The map above is the newest I could find online. It was last updated in 2008, more than a decade ago. No doubt AGL can provide the PSC with more current mapping data. Maybe the PSC could require AGL to provide an updated map to the public.

The Public Map Viewer by the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration (PHMSA) is no help: it does not include AGL’s distribution pipelines such as the one to Homerville.

PHMSA was sufficiently concerned about the Homerville Coffee Corner explosion that it wrote on AGL’s report to PHMSA:

Please confirm these
injuries involved in-patient
overnight hospitalization.

AGL apparently did not mention to PHMSA that the explosion sent three women to hospital in Gainesville, Florida, with third-degree burns.

Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)

And it’s not just pipelines. AGL’s subsidiary Pivotal LNG has three liquefaction plants in Georgia that produce Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). First responders in those counties and municipalities should especially be addressed.

Pivotal LNG has agreements to ship that LNG to Jacksonville, Florida, to Crowley Maritime, which has federal authorization to export LNG to all Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and non-FTA countries, with the gas currently going at least as far as Puerto Rico. The LNG gets to Jacksonville by truck, presumably down I-75, past business, hospitals, schools, and homes along the way.

If any of those trucks wrecks, by federal standards everyone should be evacuated half a mile downwind, including high schools and hospitals. Very few local emergency responders know this and fewer have appropriate emergency plans. All those I-75 counties should also be addressed by GA-PSC.

LNG export routes, Map
Map: by WWALS, from federal and state filings of LNG export operations.

It may not even be just trucks. PHMSA still has pending a precedent to transport LNG by rail tank car, not even in special containers (House transportation committee presses PHMSA for more information on LNG transport by rail, by Chris Galford, Transportation Today, 12 August 2019).

So all counties should be considered through which likely rail paths may go through Georgia from any of the Pivotal LNG facilities to Jacksonville, Florida.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

In 2015, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), responding to a petition by Pivotal LNG, disclaimed responsibility for any LNG facilities that weren’t basically right where ocean-going tanker ships dock.

FERC shirking its oversight duty leaves GA-PSC primarily responsible for the safety of the LNG facilities in Georgia, as well as the pipelines leading to them and the trucks driving through Georgia from them.

The three Pivotal LNG liquefaction facilities are, north to south:

  • Cherokee LNG, 12860 East Cherokee Drive, Ball Ground, GA 30107, in Cherokee County.
  • Riverdale LNG, 540 GA-138, Riverdale, GA 30274, in Clayton County.
  • Macon LNG, 5472 New Forsyth Rd, Macon, GA 31210, in Bibb County.

Pivotal LNG also owns LNG facilities in Alabama and Tennessee. At least the Alabama one has an agreement to truck LNG to Jacksonville, FL (PIVOTAL LNG AND WESPAC MIDSTREAM LLC SELECTED TO SERVE TOTE’S LNG VESSELS IN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, TOTE, Inc., PR, 6 Feb 2014). So there are probably trucks rolling down I-75 from Tennessee and along I-20 from Alabama.

LNG trucked from Cherokee LNG or the Tennessee or Alabama LNG facilities is most likely going through Atlanta.

It’s true that AGL subsidiary Pivotal LNG has opened JAX LNG, a liquefaction site in Jacksonville, FL. However, they have not announced that they have ceased trucking LNG from the Pivotal LNG liquefaction plants in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, so we do not know that such trucks are not still rolling. Even if they are not, those Georgia liquefaction plants present special safety issues that GA-EPD and AGL need to address.

No doubt AGL and its President Bryan Batson will be happy to increase the settlement amount enough so there will be “an adequate amount” for however many gas detectors or other safety equipment may be needed.

GA-PSC Calendar

With this second deferral, the earliest the AGL settlement will be heard again would be the Committee (Telecom/Facilities Protection/Energy/Administrative Affairs) meeting of October 15, 2019, and the Administrative Session of October 20th, according to the Commission Calendar.

Thanks to GA-PSC attorney Jack Branch for the update yesterday, and for saying he would call again with any further updates.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!