Should drillers (and pipeline companies) be responsible for damage done from their installations if an accident occurs that’s not really the fault of the driller or pipeline operator? It’s a valid question, and one playing out in West Virginia. On Saturday morning, April 5th, a 12-inch Williams pipeline in Marshall County, WV exploded and burst into flames, resulting in damages to two acres of trees and causing the evacuation of nearby residents (see Williams Pipeline Rupture/Fire in Marshall County, WV). It appears, from all accounts, that a landslide put extreme pressure on the pipeline causing a welding joint to break, resulting in a spark, the explosion, and the fire (see Williams Restores Service on Ruptured WV Pipeline, More Details).
The West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection investigated and concluded that since there was no contamination of water supplies, it would not fine Williams for the explosion and fire that destroyed two acres of trees. Should Williams be on the hook anyway? Here’s an article detailing the WV DEP’s reasoning: