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KDKA Investigates: Family says natural gas processing plants turned peaceful farm into nightmare

KDKA Investigates: Family says natural gas processing plants turned peaceful farm into nightmare
KDKA Investigates: Family says natural gas processing plants turned peaceful farm into nightmare 03:41

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) -- A local family says their peaceful home was turned into a nightmare when two natural gas plants moved in and seemingly surrounded their property. Now they've found themselves locked in a battle of David and Goliath.

"It got handed down from my grandpa to my dad and now me," said farm owner Sam Duran.

The Washington County homestead and farm has been a place of quiet solitude for generations of the Duran family, until recently. The once-peaceful fields are flanked by two giant natural gas processing plants. A recently expanded plant operated by Mark West and one owned by the Texas company Energy Transfer are both sites of constant flaring and noise. 

"Some nights we can't even sleep with the sounds from the plants," Duran said.

It all came to a head with an explosion and fire at the Energy Transfer plant on Christmas morning, causing the Durans to flee with their children.  

"They were opening their gifts, it was like 7:30 and the whole house shook. We gathered what dogs we could and the kids and got in the car and left," said Kasey Duran, Sam's wife. 

Energy Transfer's record in Pennsylvania is checkered at best. The state ordered the company to pay $30 million dollars in fines for an explosion at its Revolution Pipeline in Beaver County in 2018, and $20 million for more than 100 violations for leaks in its Mariner East pipeline, which polluted wetlands and private wells.  

But state environmental regulators have done little to address the problems at the plant. The state Department of Environmental Protection cited the company in 2021 for failure to prevent visible emissions, and the company agreed to pay $15,000 in fines. However, the DEP has issued no violations for the Christmas explosion and it's unclear if state regulators conducted an investigation. 

In a statement, the DEP said it reviewed the company's findings that a faulty valve had caused the explosion and has allowed Energy Transfer to resume operations. Despite constant calls to the DEP, Kasey Duran says she's heard nothing. 

"I would really like to see someone be held accountable for something. I've gone to township meetings. I've done my due diligence. I've complained, I've begged, I've cried," she said.

In their statement to KDKA-TV, Energy Transfer says it has resumed operations "in accordance with all appropriate regulations under the terms of our existing permits," and has "maintained an open dialogue with the Duran family in our efforts to address their concerns."

But the Durans say their pleas for them to curtail the flaring, lower the noise or construct a sound wall have fallen on deaf ears. At wit's end, they've asked Energy Transfer to buy them out but said their offer was way too low. 

"You know, I would really at least like to go to another farm where we got some peace and quiet and tranquility because this isn't it anymore," said Sam Duran.

Between the noise, flaring and that massive explosion on Christmas Day, folks say the once peaceful farm has become unlivable, and yet, they're stuck without answers or solutions. 

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