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Court Issues Restraining Order Against Pipeline Operator

April 10, 1994

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A judge issued a temporary restraining order Saturday blocking the resumption of service at a gas pipeline that exploded in Edison last month, officials said.

The township asked Superior Court Judge Joseph Messina for the order against pipeline operator Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. after the company refused to meet additional safety demands, said Arthur Cifelli, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Messina granted the order based on environmental concerns over some waste that had been found dumped near the pipeline, Cifelli said.

″We argued the safety of the residents,″ Cifelli said. ″They argued monetary losses and jurisdictional concerns.″

Houston-based Texas Eastern is continuing its preparations to restart the pipeline, which it did not plan to reopen until Tuesday, company spokesman Danny Gibbs said.

The township asked for the restraining order after a two-hour meeting Saturday between Mayor George Spadoro, Texas Eastern President Fred Fowler and other officials, Cifelli said.

″The meeting was abrupt,″ said Spadoro. ″They basically handed me a press release which stated that they were going to open the pipeline on Tuesday and basically not agreeing to any of the things that I had requested.″

The U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety has said the company must keep gas pressure at 70 percent once the line is restarted. But the company can increase pressure soon after it performs a sophisticated pipe inspection.

The township asked Texas Eastern to keep gas flow at 70 percent levels until the National Transportation Safety Board determines the cause of the rupture. The company refused, said Tom Vincz, Spadoro’s spokesman.

Gibbs said the company has consistently made efforts since the explosion to help residents and made several efforts to meet township demands.

The company’s interstate natural gas pipeline exploded March 24, incinerating eight buildings at a nearby apartment complex and sending 1,500 people fleeing into the night. Hundreds were left hundreds homeless. One woman died of a heart attack.

NTSB investigators found a gouge in the pipe near the rupture point, which they believe may have been caused by construction equipment.

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