Baker Calls for Quicker PUC Action on Pipeline Safety Laws and Storm Response

HARRISBURG – Faster action is needed to implement new laws on pipeline safety and natural gas impact fees, and to prevent storm-related power outages, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) urged state regulators at a recent Senate hearing.

“Ability and access are critical,” when workers are inspecting gas and hazardous liquid pipelines for safety, Baker said at the Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) annual budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We need to know where these lines are located, that they can safely handle their volumes, and that people and the environment are protected.”

The new pipeline safety mandates are contained in Act 127, which arose from legislation authored by Baker and signed into law in December. The PUC now has safety jurisdiction over Class 2, 3, and 4 gas and hazardous liquid pipelines.

Baker is preparing legislation to give the PUC added authority to inspect Class 1 lines as well, in addition to its duty to maintain a registry of the lines. Because Class 1 lines are not inspected by the federal government, the state is responsible for oversight.

PUC representatives assured Baker that pipeline inspectors will soon be trained in Pennsylvania, supplanting the current system of sending workers to Oklahoma for training.

In addressing storm-related power outages, Baker said power company officials’ and PUC promises to review the underlying circuitry and communication issues are not adequate. Quicker, more decisive action is needed.

“To my constituents who were without power for 10 or 12 days, ongoing reviews are not an acceptable answer,” Baker said. In response to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Baker held a hearing in October as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee on the reasons behind storm-related power outages and the remedies needed.

PUC Chairman Robert Powelson said that an action plan is expected by June 30.

Baker noted that it has been five years since the Valentine’s Day storm, when hundreds of cars were stranded on state highways for nearly 24 hours, and motorists are still often kept in the dark about traffic tie-ups, detours, closings and highway emergencies.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931

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