Committee Approves Baker Bill to Improve Pipeline Safety

Legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) to improve gas pipeline safety in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee today.

“County planners, emergency responders and area residents are pushing for more extensive oversight of production pipelines, gathering pipelines and intra-state transmission lines in response to expanded natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale,” Baker said. “This bill gives the state some crucial oversight power that will help improve community protection.”

While the federal Office of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has jurisdiction over all pipeline facilities, it relies on agreements with each individual state to inspect and enforce federal pipeline safety regulations. Currently, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is only authorized to enforce regulations for pipeline operators with public utility status. Additionally, PHMSA does not regulate gathering lines in many rural areas, where most of the Marcellus Shale gathering lines will be located.

Senator Baker’s bill, Senate Bill 325, addresses both of these holes in the law by giving the PUC authority to conduct safety inspections and investigations, respond to complaints, assess fines or penalties, and address service quality issues for all gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators. Under the proposal, these operators will be charged registration and renewal fees so taxpayers are not forced to cover the cost of providing increased inspections and enforcement.

Baker added that she is developing an amendment to prevent gas compressor stations from being located too near schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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