A first responder walks by smoldering wood and a burning retaining wall near a home following a natural gas explosion at a pipeline complex, on Friday, April 29, 2016, in Salem Township, Pa. The explosion caused flames to shoot above nearby treetops in the largely rural area, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, and prompted authorities to evacuate businesses nearby.

Pipeline Building Boom Raises Safety Concerns

On the morning of April 29, a natural gas transmission line exploded in a field in Salem Township in western Pennsylvania. The blast was so powerful it ripped a 12-foot crater into the landscape, burned a section of the field with a quarter-mile radius and threw a 25-foot section of the 30-inch steel pipeline 100 feet away. At the time of the explosion, a 26-year-old man was in his house, a few hundred feet away. He was badly burned, and his home destroyed. When local fire chief Bob Rosatti arrived at the scene, the flames were so hot, he had to stay in his truck. “They were massive—I would say 300 feet at the least,” Rosatti says. “That was the biggest fireball I’d ever seen in my life.

The 2015 leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Los Angeles was a grim reminder of how devastating methane leaks can be. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that the four-month leak will have the same 20-year climate impact as burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline.

On The Hunt For Methane Leaks

Burning natural gas for electricity is much cleaner than coal. But there’s a problem – leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Nearly 2 years ago Colorado implemented rules to try to limit methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure. Now the EPA is proposing to model federal rules on Colorado’s. Still finding and plugging leaks remains a challenge nationwide. In Pennsylvania, where thousands of gas wells and pipelines are working the Marcellus Shale, researchers are trying to figure out how much is leaking. For our Inside Energy project, The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier tagged along.

Patrick Angel, of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, and Mike French, of Green Forests Work, planting a tree at a former Eastern Kentucky surface mine.

Legacy of Coal: Prairies From Kentucky Mountains

Coal is in a long decline in Central Appalachia. Even though coal mining jobs are disappearing there-the imprint of coal on the landscape is everywhere. More than a million acres of strip-mined land — an area the size of Rhode Island — are now deforested. As part of a reporting project from The Allegheny Front on the future of coal, Reid Frazier went to Eastern Kentucky to see what will happen to the land once coal is gone.