District 3 Webster Parish Police Juror Daniel Thomas expressed concern about natural gas pipelines in parish rights-of-way at a recent WPPJ Road Committee meeting.
"Over time, especially on a gravel road," he said, "when you grade the road or bull the ditches periodically, those lines are getting closer and closer to the top of the ground.
"I had a guy this month hit a high pressure gas line setting in the middle of a private road," Thomas continued. "This private road's been there 45 years and he pulled that line in two ... It's a wonder he wasn't killed. You could hear it from a mile away – a very high pressure line."
According to Thomas nothing was damaged and no one was hurt in that case, but he said the potential danger was significant.
"Who is to govern that they maintain that depth?" he said. "When the pipelines are put in ... they are the standard depth. I would like for us look at coming up with something to hold (gas companies) to a standard as time evolves."
Webster Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson responded.
"There's really three issues that you have on pipelines," he said. "It depends on if they are interstate pipelines, intrastate pipelines – within the state – or if these are local service lines.
"Interstate pipelines we have no ability to regulate," Jackson continued. "It's controlled by a federal law called FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and it's highly regulated."
Pipelines that only exist only within the state and service lines are a different story, according to Jackson.
"We have the ability to regulate them so far as they impact public rights-of-way," he said. "You certainly have the ability to say, if you are going to put something in the public right-of-way here's the way you must maintain it in perpetuity. It's one of those issues that it's very difficult and you have to be vigorous to maintain it."
Jackson pointed out that the parish didn't have the resources for Public Works Director Teddy Holloway to monitor all the utility lines for compliance, but Thomas said he had something else in mind.
"I don't want Teddy to monitor it," Thomas said. "I want them to monitor it. We'd have to call (811) every morning because (Teddy) grades gravel roads all day that gas lines cross.
"As the gas companies do more and more – and that's what we want them to do – I want them to be safe," he continued.
Similar problems with pipelines exist statewide, according to Jackson.
"Everybody is in everybody's right-of-way," he said "The old stuff, some folks know where it is, some folks don't. For a long time, people just put stuff wherever they wanted to put it and didn't keep any maps of it.
"In today's times people are trying to do things right," Jackson said. "The parish – if they got aggressive – could establish a new ordinance that says if you are going to be in our open ditch we want you 60 inches under the bottom of the ditch because over the next 40 years we're going to clean out at least 30 inches. There could be something like that."
Jackson agreed, at Thomas' request, to investigate the issue further and report at the September committee meeting.