Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hearing: 60,000+ Miles Of Natural Gas Gathering Lines Should Be Regulated For Safety

The Public Utility Commission, PA One Call utility construction safety program and UGI Energy Services all recommended the 60,000 to 100,000 miles of natural gas gathering lines in 33 counties should be regulated for safety and mapped for emergency services during a hearing Wednesday by the Senate and House Emergency Preparedness and Veterans Affairs Committees.
Natural gas gathering lines have not been included in the safety and mapping programs due to opposition from the conventional oil and gas drilling industry.
In early November, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Wolf signed Senate Bill 1235 (Baker-R-Luzerne) reauthorizing the PA One Call Program for one year without including gathering lines, despite being included by the Senate.  The provision was taken out by the House.
As a result of that action, the One Call Program must be reauthorized again by the end of 2017, so this issue will again be up for discussion.
The Lycoming County Department of Public Safety told the Committees they did obtain gathering line information, but they had to sign nondisclosure agreements with conventional drilling companies. Even with the agreements, it could only be disclosed in the case of an emergency.
Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) and Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Delaware) introduced the hearing, saying they requested the hearing in September because of concerns expressed about safety, environmental and location issues related to pipelines.
At the same time, said Sen. Killion, thousands of jobs in the Southeast rely on pipelines.  
Rep. Quinn said the hearing is intended to give members of the Senate and House Committees a better understanding of safety requirements and emergency response policies in place across the state.
[Editor’s Note: The proposed Sunoco Mariner East 2 Pipeline, that would carry natural gas liquids to a refinery in Marcus Hook in Delaware County, has been controversial in Delaware and Chester counties.  Sunoco announced this week the project would be delayed due to permitting issues.]
Here’s a quick summary of comments presented to the Committees--
-- Emergency Panel Panel
-- Patrick Pauly, Alternative Energy Emergency Response Training Program Administrator, PA Emergency Management Agency. Said the State Fire Academy began offering 2 training programs in late 2013 specific to pipeline emergencies at no cost to first responders.  There are 50 instructors qualified to teach these classes and so far 194 students have completed the courses.  Starting in 2017 PEMA will offer a grant program funded by Act 13 drilling impact fees to support local emergency equipment purchases and training.  PEMA will also be offering a program on pipeline security in rural communities next year.
-- Barry Hutchins, Sr. Public Safety GIS Program Manager, Lycoming County Department of Public SafetyAdditional Testimony.  Said mapping of pipelines and related facilities are key components of emergency planning as well as assigning addresses to the features to support 9-1-1 emergency response as required by Act 9 of 2012 for unconventional natural gas wells.  In Lycoming County, natural gas gathering lines have been mapped, but the County had to sign nondisclosure agreements with conventional drilling companies to not share their location, except in an emergency.
-- Pipeline Operators Panel
-- Joe McGinn, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, Sunoco & Sunoco Logistics Partners. Sunoco said it has a 99.999 percent safety rate of delivering 16 billion barrels of products in over 7,500 miles of pipelines each year.  Sunoco has more than 1,000 miles of pipelines in Pennsylvania, transporting tens of millions of barrels per year and has the most mileage in two of the most densely populated counties, Delaware (87 miles) and Chester (102 miles).
He said the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Public Utility Commission oversee the operation of Sunoco Logistics pipelines in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, Sunoco Logistics this year sent more than 147,000 safety brochures to various stakeholder groups, including neighbors, emergency responders and construction and excavation companies along the pipeline routes.
Sunoco also regularly offers emergency responders and others annual training sessions related to pipeline awareness and emergency response. Last year, more than 2,100 people attended the free training sessions.
Sunoco also administers a grant program for local emergency equipment and training.
-- Pam Witmer, Vice President of Government Relations, UGI Energy Services.  UGI owns 72.5 miles of natural gas transmission and 53 miles of gathering lines in Pennsylvania.  UGI designs-in safety measures that go beyond minimum federal requirements in pipe thickness, testing, cathodic protection, cover of depth in agricultural areas and remote cutoff valve placement. UGI also offers emergency training together with several partners, including the State Fire Marshall’s Office, and this year have helped trained 390 first responders.
Witmer said pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas.  She noted UGI calculated it would take 10,000 trucks a day to move the same amount of energy as its Panda Power pipeline in Snyder County.
In response to a question from Sen. Killion, Witmer said UGI would support including natural gas gathering lines in the PA One Call Program.  
[Editor’s Note: Senate Bill 1235 (Baker-R-Luzerne) was signed into law in early November extended the PA One Call Program for one year, but without including gathering lines because of opposition from conventional well drillers.]
-- Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director, Associated Petroleum Industries of PA. Under a Pipeline Safety Excellence Initiative, API is also enhancing prevention efforts by improving threat detection and response competencies, expanding safety culture and management systems, and boosting emergency response capabilities.
In 2016, liquids pipeline operators completed development of a number of industry-wide recommended practices and technical reports to improve their ability to detect pipeline cracking, integrate safety data, manage safety efforts holistically, follow leak detection programs, and better plan for and respond to pipeline emergencies.
All pipeline operators establish a comprehensive mitigation strategy to reduce the impact should a release occur. Individual operators consider operational and environmental factors, including such things as pipeline size, product, flow rate, operating pressures and topography.
Pipeline operator’s leak detection programs are an example of one such mitigation measure. These programs operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the goal to quickly identify and shut down a pipeline if a leak should occur.
API also helped create an online pipeline emergency response training program. Produced alongside the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the online portal delivers pipeline-specific training free to first responders. To date over 350 from Pennsylvania have taken this training.
-- Installers/Safety Panel
-- Pete Klein, Training Director, Steamfitters Local 420. Described the Local’s training and certification programs.  In response to a question, Klein said workers who have not gone through his comprehensive training program are working on pipelines outside the Philadelphia area and expressed a concern about “untrained workers” working on pipelines.
-- Alan Seymour, Ph.D., Cleveland Electric Laboratories. Described some of the advanced leak detection technology used with pipelines.
-- Regulatory Panel
-- Andrew G. Place, Vice Chairman, PA Public Utility Commission.  Commissioner Place provided an overview of the pipelines regulated by the PUC, noting the Commission does not regulate safety aspects of pipelines regulated exclusively by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the interstate pipeline system or natural gas production and gathering lines.
Place noted it now regulates about 47,499 pipelines, but it does not regulate or know the location of between 60,000 and 100,000 miles of gathering pipelines.
He said the PUC recommended including mapping and other requirements for gathering lines in legislation to extend the PA One Call Program -- Senate Bill 1235 (Baker-R-Luzerne), but they were not included.  
[Editor’s Note: Gathering lines were not included due to opposition from conventional oil and gas drillers, but the Program must be reauthorized again by the end of 2017.]
The PUC is also implementing the Distribution System Improvement Charges Program to help replace and improve legacy utility distribution systems, including 11,000 miles of legacy natural gas pipelines.
Place also described the the Lost and Unaccounted for Gas Program which is designed to improve the operational efficiencies of natural gas utilities to reduce natural gas pipeline leaks.
He also highlighted recommendations from the Governor’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force to give the PUC the ability to enforce PA One Call requirements, require annual leak pipeline surveys and establishing a centralized mapping system for emergency responders.
In response to a question, Place said the PUC does not have authority over the siting of a pipeline, particularly those regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  
House Committee Majority Chair Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware) noted several federal agencies were invited to participate in the hearing, but they chose not to attend.
-- Bill Kiger, President, PA One Call. Provided an overview of the PA One Call utility construction warning program.  On the issue of gathering lines, Kiger said--
“Pennsylvania excavators deserve the ability to notify ALL UNDERGROUND FACILITY OWNERS before they begin their work. This cannot happen with the owners of 60,000 miles of lines PA Independent Oil and Gas Association in approximately 33 counties of Pennsylvania that were installed without inspection and in many cases are unmarked in the Class 1 areas as well. The shale stakeholders have had to spend millions of dollars over the past 10 years finding these lines thru “Subsurface Utility Engineering” (SUE) and geophysical consultants in the 30+ county area.”  
[Editor’s Note: Senate Bill 1235 (Baker-R-Luzerne) extending PA One Call for 1 year did not include gathering lines.  The Program will have to be reauthorized again by the end of 2017.]
-- John Stefanko, Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs, DEP.  Provided an overview of  how DEP regulates pipeline construction through water quality and air quality permits and agency’s role in emergency response to spills and other incidents using the recent Sunoco pipeline break due to flooding in Lycoming County.
In response to a question, Stefanko also noted DEP does not have authority over the siting of a pipeline, particularly those regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
-- Citizens Panel
One member of the panel outlined concerns with the proposed Sunoco Mariner East 2 pipeline in Delaware County that included issues related to emergency response planning, medical response and evacuation procedures, particularly related to schools, as reflected in the Middletown Coalition for Community Safety written comments.
A number of members of the panel detailed how, if an explosion happened with the natural gas liquids pipeline, it would quickly overwhelm the ability of local emergency and health services to respond.
Members of the panel included--
-- Bibianna Dussling, Veteran Naval Aviator, Safety and Emergency Preparedness Officer.
-- Susan Birkhoff, MSN, RN, PHRN, Pediatric Critical Care Nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
-- Eric Friedman, Aviation Safety Inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration.
-- Seth Kovnat, Chief Structural Engineer at Piasecki Aircraft Corporation.
-- James M. Wigo, Sr., Superintendent of Schools, Rose Tree Media School District.
-- Todd Stager, Engineer, Pennoni Associates.
At the end of the hearing, Rep. Barrar said the House and Senate Committees are going to be rewriting the state’s Emergency Management Code (Title 35) next session and thanked the panelists for the comments.  He also said there would be more hearings in the future.
Click Here for copies of available written testimony.  A video of the hearing is posted on the same page.
Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:
Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Delaware) serves as Majority Chair of the House Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: Rep. Chris Sainato (D-Lawrence) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:
(Photo: Spectra Gas Pipeline explosion, Westmoreland County, April 2016.)
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  1. Mariner East has been controversial in a number of other counties too...Huntingdon, Cumberland, Blair, Lebanon, Lancaster, Berks, Westmoreland and Washington to name a few.

  2. And representatives of those counties were not in attendance at this hearing!


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