Pipeline Co. to Pay $800K in Fines, Fixes
In a press release issued at the beginning of the month by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Office of the Attorney General Maura Healey, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company LLC (Tennessee Gas) and its contractor, Henkels & McCoy (Henkels), Inc. have agreed to resolve violations through a settlement agreement.
According to the release, the companies were accused of violating Massachusetts environmental protection laws and damaging a section of road during the construction of a natural gas pipeline in 2017.
During the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Sandisfield and Otis State Forest in Massachusetts in 2017, Kinder Morgan subsidiary Tennessee Gas was accused by the Attorney General’s Office of violating a series of environmental protection laws when workers failed to maintain required erosion and sedimentation controls.
As a result of the failure, the AG claimed that soil and sediment runoff spread into more than 630 square feet of wetlands. Additionally, when Tennessee crews excavated, the contaminated ground filled portions of an ecologically important vernal pool.
In addition to the damaged vernal pool and other protected wetland resources areas, Tennessee Gas was also accused of discharging 15,000 gallons of contaminated pipeline test water directly onto the ground.
“Tennessee Gas repeatedly assured the state and Sandisfield residents that water quality and wetlands would be protected during pipeline construction, but they failed to make that happen,” said Healey. “My office will continue to hold accountable those who violate our critical environmental protection laws. The paving of Cold Spring Road greatly benefits the town, whose residents suffered through the disruption caused by pipeline construction.”
The AG went even further in its claims, adding that because Henkels shut down a required dewatering pump, the breached action temporarily graded water quality in Spectacle Pond Brook, a cold water fishery.
According to reports, the list of violations went against the state’s Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act and their corresponding regulations.
What’s Happening Now
According to the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay a total of $300,000 to settle the state claims. Tennessee Gas will pay $85,000 and Henkels will pay $50,000 in civil penalties to the state’s General Fund. Tennessee Gas will also pay $45,000 and Henkels will pay $120,000 to MassDEP’s Natural Resource Damages Trust.
“The Town of Sandisfield is extremely grateful for the efforts of the Attorney General and Representative Smitty Pignatelli for assisting the Selectboard in getting Cold Spring Road restored,” said Brian O’Rourke, Chairman of the Sandisfield Selectboard. “This agreement will also make sure Tennessee Gas Pipeline honored the commitments they first made when the pipeline expansion project started. The Town of Sandisfield would not have been able to do this without Smitty and the Attorney General's team.”
MassDEP has also been reported to have issued an unilateral administrative order to Tennessee Gas, requiring the company to take immediate corrective actions to stabilize and restore its vernal pool in compliance with a restoration and monitoring plant approved by the Department. While Tennessse Gas will continue annual monitoring of the pool, to date, the company has spent $86,000 on the project thus far.
Tennessee Gas has also agreed to contract with Palmer Paving Company for a $500,000 four-mile-long pavement repair job. However, this agreement was made separately from the consent judgement. Work on the road was slated to begin this week.
“This has been a long time coming but, without the commitment from the Attorney General’s office, this never would have been resolved,” said Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Massachusetts). “Standing up for the Town of Sandisfield has always been my priority. To see this stretch of roadway properly repaired gives me great hope that when we work together David can take on Goliath and win. The company has finally done right by this community.”
This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Ireland and Elizabeth Mahony, both of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, with assistance from MassDEP attorney Christine LeBel, Regional Deputy Director Brian Harrington, Wetland Section Chief David Cameron, and Environmental Analyst David Foulis, all of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office.