Natural gas doesn’t just naturally flow through an interstate pipeline. Instead the gas must be continually pressurized to keep it flowing during the transportation process. Compressor stations spaced 40 to 100 miles apart along the route are the hazardous infrastructure which accomplishes this task. Moving increased capacity requires increasing compressor horsepower or increasing the number of compressor stations along the route. The NED pipeline proposal currently requires 9 new compressor stations and modifications to an existing compressor station. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.
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Health, Safety, and Environmental Impacts
The possibilities for health, safety or environmental harm resulting from natural gas compressor stations are many and serious. Some of these include: Explosions, fires, leaks and spills, plus fugitive emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), as well as other potential exposure threats, such as radon 222 and lead.
While all of these hazards have been well documented nationwide the most prevalent is the intentional (routine) “blow-downs”. Accidental releases of VOCs and NOx also occur. But all possible threats need to be considered when allowing compressor stations to operate, especially in close proximity to: homes, work places, playgrounds, schools, water resources and farms. The types of VOCs and NOx commonly emitted include: Formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, hydrogen disulfide, carbon monoxide(CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), methane (CH4) and other compounds or elements that are toxic, carcinogenic or neurotoxic, and which are prone to causing major adverse health effects in humans and animals.
Compressor stations are loud. “Blow-downs” can last from 20 minutes to 2-3 hours, from 12 – 40 times per year. The noise is comparable to a commercial jet taking off and disturbingly they often occur in the middle of the night. The sound of regular compressor station operation has been compared to four diesel locomotive engines running 24/7. Residents as far as a mile away can hear the racket. This humming can cause hearing impairment and cardiovascular problems.
Frequent nausea, throat irritation, eyes burning, nasal irritation, sinus problems, bronchitis, persistent cough, weakness, tiredness, chronic eye irritation, shortness of breath, muscle aches, dizziness, ringing in ears, sores and ulcers in mouth, urinary infections, depression, decreased motor skills, falling, staggering, frequent irritation, brain disorders, severe headaches, frequent nose bleeds, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, joint pain, nervous system impacts, forgetfulness, irregular or rapid heart beat, strokes, allergies, easy bruising, severe anxiety, excessive sweating, abnormal EEG, spleen, lump in breast, pre-cancerous lesions, amnesia, and thyroid problems.
61% of health impacts associated with chemicals present in excess of short and long term effects screening levels in the air.
Reported by people living 50 feet to 2 miles from compressor stations and metering stations.
Research provided by Wilma Subra, ex-Vice-chair of EPA National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology 
If air, noise, and light pollution aren’t bad enough, there’s also the chance of fire and explosion.
Compressor Station Safety Record
Explosions and Fires at compressor stations are documented throughout the country. Since 2011, there have been at 14 accidents, explosions, and fires at compressor stations in the following towns: Lathrop, PA, Brooklyn Township, PA, Montrose, PA, Branchville, NJ, Langton, OK Clinton, AK Windsor, NY, Pinedale, WY, Nine Mile Canyon, UT Marengo County, AL, Oaktown, IN, Crockett, Texas Gray County, TX, Bradford County, PA, among others. These accidents involved evacuations, hospitalizations, and fatality.
The above information was primarily obtained from research by Mina Hamilton. She has been a Research Associate at Radioactive Waste Management Associates, was co-founder and co-director of the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign, and served on Greenpeace USA’s Board of Directors. Please support her efforts at Taprock Center for Earth & Justice.
» 11/29/2013 – No Injuries Reported in Missouri Pipeline Explosion
» 4/15/2012 – Susquehanna County Compressor Station Explosion
The impacts of compressor stations are often understated in public briefings about the proposed NED project. Below is one such example from TGP/KM presentations given in New Hampshire.
Information related to the concerns of compression stations can be found in the filings of other organizations for other pipeline projects. One such example is the Sheds compression station which would be located in Madison County, NY.
Related to the compression of natural gas is the routine requirement to relieve over pressure conditions or release all of the natural gas for maintenance. These events are called “blow-downs” and obtaining consistent information about them from TGP/KM has been difficult.