Last updated: April 24. 2014 12:05AM - 2350 Views
By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com

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DALLAS — Scranton attorney Todd O’Malley on Wednesday brought members of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, an environmental-advocacy group, up to speed on a lawsuit pending against a natural gas pipeline operator.

The suit, which has grown to include 29 plaintiffs, was filed last June against PVR Partners, of Radnor, Pennsylvania, for damages caused by the Chapin Dehydration Station, a gas processing plant, just off Route 309 in Beaumont.

Regency Energy Partners of Dallas, Texas, purchased PVR for $5.6 billion at the end of March. Along with PVR’s net debt of $1.8 billion, Regency also inherited the lawsuit, O’Malley said.

PVR/Regency had filed a list of objections to the plaintiffs’ original complaint, but O’Malley said the court has dismissed them.

The suit is now in the discovery stage in which Regency attorneys seek information through questions to the plaintiffs, O’Malley said.

Regency attorneys have submitted hundreds of questions to be answered by each of the plaintiffs. When O’Malley has returned the queries, the plaintiffs will seek facts from the company.

His staff also is gathering any citations filed by the Department of Environmental Protection against the plant to strengthen their argument.

The process is expected to take about 18 months, O’Malley said. A trial date has not been set.

A dehydration station uses the chemical glycol to strip moisture from natural gas as it travels through pipelines for the purpose of, among other things, preventing ice to form in the colder months. Moisture also quickens pipeline corrosion.

There have been eight documented incidents at the Chapin station since it went online in 2012. Emergency crews were called to the site three times this month alone.

After the most recent incident April 8, Williams, a national pipeline operator that shares operations at the plant, said the natural gas odorant called mercaptan had been blown through the community by wind while a technician was changing the mercaptan tanks, a routine operation.

There was no emergency, but the smell raised alarm. There are about 20 homes in the immediate area surrounding the plant.

In an email statement following the most recent incident, Regency spokeswoman Vicki Granado said the Chapin station has been operating within the required parameters and continues to do so.

“The safety of the community, the environment and our employees is our top priority,” Granado said.

While DEP had cited PVR for not reporting a 2012 incident within the required time frame, initial air quality tests taken immediately after recent incidents have shown no dangerous conditions.

However, the suit says the plant’s mere presence creates a nuisance with a constant humming noise and subtle vibrations emanating from the plant.

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