Ohio has not updated regulations on natural gas pipelines. Meanwhile federal rules appear inadequate, to judge by the number of gas line accidents each year.
In 2011 alone, at least six serious accidents involving gas pipelines were recorded in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In February 2011, a pipeline explosion in Allentown, Pa., killed five people. Last November, a waterline crew accidentally hit a gas line in Fairborn. One man died. Also that month, a 36-inch gas transmission line near Glouster blew up. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Another 36-inch pipeline ruptured and caught fire near Lisbon in February 2010. Again, no one was hurt.
The potential for serious property damage, along with injury or death, often is slight in such accidents, because most large pipelines run through rural areas. Still, some explosions occur near homes; at least 21 homes were damaged or destroyed in the Ohio and Pennsylvania explosions last year.
Then, this March 29, part of a gas pipeline compressor station in Susquehanna County, Pa., exploded and burned. There were no injuries.
Gov. John Kasich is recommending strongly that the state implement new pipeline safety rules. He is absolutely right to worry about the potential for an accident even more serious than those during the past year.
It is a question that is about to become pressing, as gas companies begin building new pipelines and compressor stations to handle the enormous quantities of gas being extracted from new wells. Ohio officials should be looking at whether pipeline safety regulations need to be improved. At the same time, the federal government needs to be considering its role regarding big interstate transmission lines.