MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Columbia Gas Transmission is suing a Petersburg company whose timber-cutting operation it claims is threatening the safety and stability of three underground pipelines. Ohio-based Columbia sued Robert Borror Logging and four Pendleton County landowners earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Elkins. Columbia wants Chief Judge John Preston Bailey to issue a permanent injunction that would stop Borror from operating in a way it considers improper and unsafe under a right of way agreement.Borror has no telephone listing and has yet to file a response.
Columbia says Borror is driving trucks and hauling logs on roads it had earlier agreed to protect. Underneath those roads are 26-inch and 36-inch pipelines that carry natural gas. Columbia argues that stress on the ground could increase pressure in the pipelines or create cracks in the pipes or the coatings. Any leaks could cause a rupture of the pipeline, and that could lead to serious injuries or deaths, as well as significant property damage. Such an accident would also disrupt service to customers. Columbia says it raised its concerns last fall when it learned of Borror Logging's plans, and it worked with the company on conditions that would allow logging to be done safely. Those conditions included the construction of "air tracks" which would elevate vehicles and minimize ground pressure. Borror also agreed not to drag logs over the rights of way, Columbia said. The gas company said it learned in January that Borror was violating the agreement and tried to work things out until April, when Borror "dropped all pretenses and directly asserted its belief that Columbia does not have the ability to regulate" the roads. Then in May, Columbia said the landowners informed the gas company it would no longer have access.