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Governor Wolf Signs Pipeline Emergency Response Plan Bill into Law

Pipeline constructors and operators will now be on the hook for emergency management plans for their projects. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed HB 2293 into law, which is intended to make pipeline operations safer in the event of an emergency.

The governor was busy on the eve of Thanksgiving, signing 25 bills into law. Among those bills was HB 2238, introduced by House Rep. Christopher Quinn (R-Delaware). The bill would make pipeline operators subject to disclosing their emergency management plans at any time upon written request from the state. More specifically, the bill grants the power to summon these plans to the Public Utility Commission, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and any county-level emergency management director.

Rep. Quinn’s bill has been on the legislative agenda for some time, initially passing the House earlier this year, eventually being passed by the Senate and signed by the governor all within the same week. According to Quinn, the bill is there to enhance communication, stating that “too often communication between pipeline operators and our local emergency management professionals breaks down.” This breakdown in communication can be dangerous, with Quinn adding that “communication is critical for any response, especially when public safety is at risk.”

In the past, there has been some shared sentiment among local officials that they lacked important safety and emergency management information from pipeline developers. This lack of information has legal implications as well, as the PUC cannot enforce laws without such information, and no existing law required companies to disclose this information on request.

The bill received bipartisan support, though an amendment added by Senator Katie Muth (D-Montgomery) stalled its passing in the Senate. The amendment would have required operators to disclose their emergency management plans without request of any qualified body or official, but was removed from the bill after a stalemate in the state Senate.

The bill’s overarching goal is to bolster safety within the midstream natural gas industry that has grown throughout Pennsylvania in the last decade. Incidents like the explosion of Energy Transfer’s Revolution Pipeline and numerous issues surrounding the Mariner East projects has prompted legislative, and law enforcement response to tighten safety requirements and hold the companies at fault accountable for these accidents.

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