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Sissonville explosion prompts federal hearing

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Senate officials will host a meeting on pipeline safety in Charleston this month, just a few miles from where a natural gas line destroyed the homes of several Sissonville residents.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the Jan. 28 field hearing will feature key witnesses to review "the current state of pipeline safety.

"The Sissonville explosion shook West Virginia quite literally, and served as a stark reminder that pipeline safety is serious. And oversight is critically important," Rockefeller said. "This will be the fourth Senate Commerce Committee hearing on this issue during my tenure as chairman, and it's an important one to West Virginia because we know how much worse things could have been in Sissonville. And West Virginians want to know everything is being done to prevent accidents and disasters."

Though the Dec. 11 incident in Sissonville produced no fatalities or injuries, the explosion destroyed a large section of highway and several residential homes. Revelations regarding the condition of the pipe has led many in the area to question the safety of the state's aging pipeline infrastructure.

Pipelines similar to the one in Sissonville are found across the state. Because of the fact that the lines are underground, as well as other factors, it is at times difficult to assess the condition of the pipes.

"Passing comprehensive pipeline safety legislation was a good step, but I did push for even stronger provisions in that bill, and we must assess where implementation of that law stands, and whether future actions are needed," Rockefeller said, referencing previous efforts to push for pipeline safety.

The incident was not isolated to West Virginia. More than 30 such pipeline explosions occurred in 2012.

While pieces of a federal investigation regarding the Sissonville explosion have been released, the full cause and mechanism of the explosion has yet to be determined.