Lawsuit leaves large gas storage fields in Kansas unregulated

Wichita EagleOctober 3, 2011 

CUNNINGHAM — Bill Knox knows to respect natural gas.

He's a former oil- and gas-field worker who helped lay the foundations for a mammoth underground gas storage operation three miles from his home; he lost a friend in a gas explosion in Texas; and he well remembers 10 years ago when gas escaped from underground storage and blew up in Hutchinson, 40 miles northeast of Cunningham, killing an elderly couple.

Knox says it's unsettling to know that because of a federal court decision last year, neither the state nor federal governments are inspecting the gas field near his home, or others holding thousands of times the amount of gas that caused havoc in Hutchinson.

"Any time you've got gas going, you need to have it inspected every now and then," Knox said. "If we get a leak and it's not detected or the pipe gets weak and nobody ever inspects it, we could have an explosion like Hutchinson."

Since the federal district court in Topeka struck down Kansas gas-safety laws last year, 11 underground storage sites with a capacity of more than 270 billion cubic feet of gas have gone uninspected for 18 months, according to state officials.

The state can't inspect them.

The federal government has chosen not to.

As a result, thousands of Kansans live on and around uninspected gas-storage fields that dwarf the system that caused the Hutchinson disaster.

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