Attorney General Michelle Henry announced charges against Equitrans, L.P. regarding the energy company’s failure to fix a natural gas leak that caused a house explosion in Greene County in 2018.
Three occupants of the home, a couple and their four-year-old son, sustained severe burns after the house at 161 Bowser Road exploded and caught fire on October 31, 2018.
An investigation by the Office of Attorney General revealed that a storage well near the White family home was deteriorating and leaking gas for years, resulting in methane contamination of the home’s water supply.
The 51st Statewide Investigating Grand Jury recommended charges under Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law regarding failures to properly maintain a storage well, and for not conducting an investigation after the explosion.
“Pennsylvanians have a right to feel safe in their homes, without concern for large corporations creating environmental hazards,” Attorney General Henry said. “This brave family has endured significant hardship, suffering physical and emotional injuries, financial stress, and the loss of their family home and cherished personal belongings. Companies have a responsibility to abide by regulations that help maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the communities where they work, and my office will be here to enforce the laws if they fail to do that.”
The investigation revealed that Equitrans owned and operated a natural gas storage field, Pratt Storage Field, directly underneath the White home. Natural gas storage fields allow companies to store gas underground, after it is extracted, and still have quick access to it during times of high demand.
Gas that was stored in the Pratt Storage Field migrated vertically into the groundwater through a nearby storage well which was deteriorating and leaking. According to the investigation, Equitrans had acknowledged in federal filings that preceded the explosion that Pratt field was losing gas and that wells situated within the field were leaking gas.
Equitrans was charged with prohibition against discharge of industrial waste, prohibition against other pollutions, and two counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law. On the day of the explosion, Cody White was home with his son and his girlfriend. After turning on the stove to cook a meal for his child, the house immediately exploded. Cody helped his family out of the home, as both were knocked down by flaming debris. A neighbor called 9-1-1 when they saw the house on fire.
After the explosion, Equitrans was required by law to initiate its own investigation to determine the source of the gas leak. Other companies operating in the area, including Peoples Natural Gas and EQT, hired investigators to determine the cause and source of the leak. However, Equitrans failed to launch its own investigation into the source, despite operating a well just 300 feet from the White home.