Oil and gas pipeline safety has been at the forefront of many Pennsylvanian’s minds. Recent events such as multiple pipeline explosions and the various safety-related closures of major pipeline operations that span the Commonwealth have left citizens yearning for legislators to act. The call for action has reached the Governor’s Mansion, with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf showing support of a group of bills that have been in the legislature for some time.
The twelve bills referenced span many areas of pipeline development, which Governor Wolf says will help close “gaps” in the current law that have been exploited by oil and gas companies. StateImpact reports that such proposed laws include mandatory disclosure of pipelines built within 1,000 feet of schools, coordination between pipeline developers and local first responders, and shutoff valves in “high-consequence” areas. A key piece of legislation, though, would bolster the power of the Public Utility Commission, granting them the “authority over where pipelines can be built”. The PUC has been at arms with energy companies several times in the past year, mostly over regulatory and safety issues in pipeline development and operation. This shift in authority could create a new dynamic between the industry and the PUC.
Pipeline development has increased in the last year, with multiple pipeline projects either beginning construction or becoming operational in 2018. The most notable, and controversial, of these being Energy Transfer LP and subsidiary Sunoco’s Mariner East 1, 2 and 2X pipelines. The Mariner East projects are currently stalled due to the PA DEP refusing to approve permits necessary for their operation as a result of numerous safety violations. New legislation could surely change the future of pipeline development in the state.