Senator Lisa Baker Speaks on the Senate Floor about Legislation to Strengthen Gas Pipeline Safety in Pennsylvania

Until a few years ago, not many people were giving thought to pipeline rights-of-way, the thickness of the pipes or the quality of the welds, or the sufficiency of the inspections before the pipes were buried. Nor was there a whole lot of attention paid to the occasional siting of a gas compressor station.

Today, those considerations are of utmost importance to many residents in the Marcellus Shale drilling areas. As residents have inquired about the rules and regulations and oversight of this infrastructure, they are dismayed to discover there are alarming holes in the system.

Today is day three of a comprehensive look by The Philadelphia Inquirer into the concerns and consequences. It is hard to imagine a clearer or more timely call to action. Look at the pipeline map for Bradford County. It begins to resemble the street map of a metropolitan area. For safety reasons, for reasons of environmental protection, we need to know where the pipelines are, we need to know that they were constructed to standards suitable for the volume and pressure of the gas they are conveying, and we need to know that they are located sufficiently far away from people and resources we want to protect.

Through this bill, we begin to fill in the gaps in state law and regulation. The Public Utility Commission is given safety jurisdiction over Class 2, 3, and 4 gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

As more permits are approved, as more exploratory drilling takes places, as more wells come into active production, it is imperative for us to ensure greater public safety and environmental protection.

This is not the final word on the issue. Gathering pipelines referred to as Class 1 lines are prevalent in my area and other parts of the Commonwealth. The federal government chooses not to inspect these lines because they are located in rural, less populated areas. Thus, it becomes state responsibility, and a priority one at that.

This bill provides for a Class 1 registry, so at least we will know where the lines are. Subsequent legislation will give the PUC the same authority to conduct safety inspections on the Class 1 lines as it gains to inspect the other classes of lines under the bill before us. It will bring such lines under the Pennsylvania One Call system. When we give this authority, we must also provide the means to enforce it.

None of this is a threat to the viability of the drilling industry. But leaving any aspect of the drilling, compressing, and shipping processes beyond the reach of standards and overseers would pose a substantial threat to our residents and communities.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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