CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The president of the Kanawha County Commission and the county fire coordinator are worried about Columbia Gas Transmission's plan to restart a natural gas pipeline that exploded earlier this month near Sissonville.
"We escaped the other day, we don't want to push our luck," said county fire coordinator C.W. Sigman.
Sigman and Commission President Kent Carper plan to call for strong safety measures by Columbia's parent company, Indiana-based NiSource, and the regulators who oversee pipelines, the state Public Service Commission.
On Dec. 11, one of Columbia's 20-inch diameter transmission lines ruptured and filled the sky with fire, scorched the earth and nearby homes and ruined a segment of I-77. Miraculously, no serious injuries were reported.
Carper and Sigman worry the company has other dangerous pipes still in the ground.
Late last week, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, said the company could plan to restart the 26.2-mile segment of pipe.
But first Columbia has to take a number of steps, including making repairs and inspecting critical valves.
Once the company is ready to restart the segment, it can send only 70 percent as much pressurized gas through the pipe as it did before the explosion.
Once the pipeline, known as SM-80, has gas going back through it to the eastern gas market, federal regulators want the company to take long-term steps to ensure the segment is safe.
Among other things, the company has a month to run a "smart pig" through the pipe segment, which starts near Cross Lanes and runs northeastward. These metal pigs - which look like a piston but can also vaguely resemble a metal jellyfish - travel through a pipeline to check for irregularities, including cracks and corrosion.
It is unclear how long or how expensive the process will be. A Columbia spokeswoman did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.
But, Sigman is concerned about other pipes.